Rani is the most famous sloth bear at the Agra Bear Rescue Facility and she holds a very special place in our hearts. She was the very first dancing bear to be rescued by Wildlife SOS from the centuries-old tradition that inflicted terrible cruelty on thousands of highly endangered sloth bears. She was five years at that time and living in a deplorable condition. With no anaesthesia, a red hot iron poker had been driven through her tender muzzle at a very young age and a thick rope was pushed through the raw wound that controlled her every move. As part of the training process, Rani would be beaten repeatedly and starved for days till she gave into the will of her masters, while people on the streets watched her ’dance’ in pain. Rani’s rescue in 2002 has since laid ground for the successful rescue and rehabilitation for over 620 bears across India.
Over the years, we have watched her grow and transform into a strong and spirited bear. Living under the control of humans, Rani never had a chance to learn or exhibit any form of natural behaviour so our team of veterinarians and keepers had to help tap into her instincts and behaviour, in a near natural environment. Now twenty years old, Rani whose name means ‘queen’ in Hindi is close to royalty at the centre and she enjoys exercising her rule over the others in her enclosure. Though she is comfortable with her keepers Chandrashekhar and Vijaypal, Rani is known to be temperamental and takes her time to adjust to newcomers. She is fiercely protective of her furry companions, especially the younger ones and is rather fond of playing with Chotu, Bijli and Butterball, three of our most energetic bears. However, her best friend is Mangi and the two can often be seen snuggled up into one giant fur ball inside her den and occasionally lazing in a hammock.
She loves honey laced porridge and fruits like watermelons, grapes, mangoes and melons. Rani enjoys playing with various honey smeared enrichments and peanut filled enrichment balls. During the hot summer days, one can find Rani splashing about in her pool or simply relaxing in the refreshing water. Recently she sustained a minor scratch on forehead during a friendly tussle with another bear and is undergoing treatment for the same.
As an extension of the Dancing Bear Project, Wildlife SOS also works towards the rehabilitation of the Kalandar community. Rani’s owner, Munna was the first member of the Kalandar community to be a part of this initiative. We offered Munna and his sons an alternative livelihood so they would hand Rani over to us peacefully. He was given an auto rickshaw and his sons were employed under Wildlife SOS. Today, they have moved on to become entrepreneurs in other states while Munna has happily retired to a comfortable life. After enrolling in our skill training program, his daughter now runs a beauty parlour, which we helped set up and we are also sponsoring the education of his grandchildren so that they can grow up to choose a different life for themselves.
Here’s a glimpse of Rani busy with her honey log enrichment at the Agra Bear Rescue Facility;
Watching Rani take her first steps towards freedom nearly fifteen years ago stands as an inspiration for everyone at Wildlife SOS to continue the work that they had started. You too can help by sponsoring sloth bears like Rani who have suffered all their lives and now have some respite from the pain. Your donations will go a long way in making a difference to the lives of our rescued and rehabilitated bears. CLICK HERE to sponsor a bear.