The month of June brought both the gloom of the monsoons and heartbreaking news to the Agra Bear Rescue Facility. After twelve years in our care, we lost our beloved sloth bear Jojo to a bad case of tuberculosis.
This is the story of Jojo’s journey with Wildlife SOS.
Jojo had been living at ABRF from the time he was eight-years old when he was rescued by Wildlife SOS from his life as a ‘dancing’ bear in August 2003. At the time of his rescue, he weighed a pitiful 65 kilos and could barely walk, owing to a severely inflamed tendon in his ankle. Jojo had spent the first eight years of his life in unimaginable circumstances- probably poached as a cub, he was subjected to a life in captivity as a dancing bear, with a crudely pierced muzzle, gaunt frame and little hope. His rescue changed that, setting him firmly on the road to a better life.
When he first entered our lives, Jojo was fearful and apprehensive. His small, starved frame and weak legs rendered him scared of people and other bears alike, and it took a lot of love and dedicated care from our staff to earn his trust and affection. Once the coarse rope was surgically removed and his muzzle began to heal, Jojo officially turned from a ‘dancing’ bear to an emancipated bear, free to live however he liked at our centre.
Over the years, Jojo’s wounds healed and so did his broken spirit. As the treatment for his tendonitis progressed, he regained strength in his foot and began walking with relative ease, although he still had a slightly crooked gait.
Jojo spent most of his time wandering about his large free-range enclosure, digging up termites and ants and foraging, just like he would have in the wild. Despite his awkward stance, Jojo adapted to life at the centre smoothly, and slowly began to climb trees and enrichments. He loved the monsoon rains and digging up creepy-crawly treats from the squelching mud, or going for long evening walks in the lush green forested areas of his enclosure.
Perhaps the most heartwarming part of his recovery was his interaction with Maharani bear. Our initially timid bear found a friend in Maharani, and would spend hours with her, exploring their enclosure, napping in their den and even sharing food. Our wonderful Maharani was exceptionally fond of Jojo, and always made sure she kept pace with her slightly slower best friend when they were roaming about. She became an intricate part of Jojo’s walks, meals, adventures and, most importantly, his recovery.
Jojo remains a testament to the strength and perseverance of his kind.
Sadly, Jojo showed signs of illness and preliminary medical examinations confirmed the presence of a wild strain of tuberculosis. The treatment for the disease didn’t seem to agree with him, and his condition continued to deteriorate steadily until he passed away the morning of 21st June 2015.
While we at Wildlife SOS are deeply saddened by his demise and will miss Jojo terribly, we applaud his strength and perseverance during this long struggle and take solace in knowing that he is finally out of pain and at peace. We are grateful to have known a bear as delightful as Jojo and are comforted by the knowledge that he lived out the last twelve years of his life with friends, love and the freedom he deserved.