By Aishuwarya Sudarshan
The environment is the best teacher. She might not be the calmest but she has her way of getting the point across. Wildlife SOS has had more than one tryst with her and we have learnt more than we could any other way.
Last year the monsoons were harsh, relentless and powerful, it rained through most days in August and the intensity seemed to be increasing rather than slowing down. Our team knew they were in for a shock and weren’t as prepared for it. Then one morning, it happened, the water level rose as it rained and crossed the critical control limit. It had to be stopped but we hadn’t expected this to happen, so makeshift barriers, drain systems and blockers were used. Nothing could beat the force with which the water came in.
Our main priority was the bears that needed to be transferred to the main center and we had to do it quick. With 6 transfer cages and observation cages our team at Agra worked without any breaks and got all the bears out in 5 hours. 40 bears were shifted.
We still thank our stars for the quick thinking and team work for helping save the animals because the wreckage the water had caused was shocking. There was water, silt and algae everywhere. The water level had filled the dens and the offices. All the grain that didn’t get transferred in time had either been carried away by the water or was spoilt. It broke our hearts to watch years of hard work be crushed by a flood. But we weren’t going to quit and we fought back.
After we consoled our hearts and came to terms with the destruction we started fixing the center. We began flood proofing everything. All the buildings were painted with a waterproof paint, there were barriers erected on all sides of the extension and we marked the water levels on a daily basis to see increase.
The drain system was changed and made deeper. We had flood mounts built as enrichments so it served two purposes. These were elevated structures created so that the bears could sun themselves without getting any slush on them or get into any puddles, plus this didn’t allow the water to enter the dens. The 20 transfer cages help transport the bears to the main area for the monsoons. We knew we were prepared but didnâ€™t want the bears to stay on that side in this weather.
Monsoon is here but we haven’t had any major disaster yet. Touch wood. So, after one and a half years of relentless work, ideas that failed and those that stand strong we can gladly say we are geared for the floods.
All this would not have been possible without the amazing support and generosity you have shown us during our season of trial. Every penny has gone to protecting the bears, their enclosures and food.