Akki’s story is one of extreme hardships – torn away from his mother when he was only a cub, and put through a notoriously painful indoctrination process which taught him one and one thing only: pain was the only answer to his desperate struggles toward freedom. His teeth were broken and molars destroyed, a hot iron rod poked through his tender muzzle, and countless beatings as negative reinforcement to ensure that Akki never realized his real strength, to psychologically suppress his innate wildness, and to make him believe that there was no escape.
While most bears under the care of Wildlife SOS have extremely heart wrenching stories to tell, Akki has a story that is harder to reconcile with most. In 2008, he was rescued at the age of five from a Kalandar family. He had been sold through poachers to the nomadic tribe to be exploited in the ‘Dancing Bear’ trade. All this while, Akki knew nothing of life beyond his painful shackles.
When Wildlife SOS came across Akki in West Bengal, they found a deeply emaciated bear in terrible conditions who was exhibiting stereotypical behaviour like head-bobbing, swaying, quite commonly seen in other captive bears. His muzzle was infected and he was extremely underweight – only 60 kilos which is unimaginable in an adult bear. After weeks of intensive care and medication, Akki finally began regaining the lost luster of his dense black coat. However, he still wasn’t comfortable interacting with humans but we wanted to take things at his pace. Akki was also introduced to another bear of the same age, Bobby and within a week’s time we noticed a significant change in his demeanor. Bobby’s friendship has indeed played a big role in Akki’s recovery and their bond has only gotten stronger over the years.
Soon after, they welcomed another bear named Suma into their close-knit group. Today, Akki and Bobby are a common sight in the forested areas of Agra Bear Rescue Facility (ABRF), bounding around or napping under the sun. They form a very naughty trio that enjoys pranking others and swiping their treats. Akki, specially, is a foodie who loves his grub so much he cannot tolerate any interference when it comes to feeding times. He’s often spotted sitting on his haunches, waiting with bated breath for his keeper to turn up with the honey laced porridge he loves so much.
Akki is very food motivated – he loves treats in the form of honey and dates. His favourite companion is, of course, Bobby and the two spend hours tiring themselves out on the log platforms and hanging enrichments. He has transformed into a very friendly, calm bear who now gets along well with his keepers Veerpal and Biltu Nath. He has a very peculiar habit of grabbing his paws with his mouth and nibbles on them.
It took Akki a while to figure out how to be a bear again but we are delighted that he has created his own path successfully!