By Aishuwarya Sudarshan
Every bear that comes into our centre has a unique story; one usually filled with trauma and fear. Kaveri’s story was like most other dancing bears, but with so much more pain that it’s a miracle she survived. Despite her painful early years, she has blossomed into a happy bear and flourishes at our rescue centre today.
On 27th December 2006, Kaveri, a blind, tired and undernourished bear walked into our centre. She had a perpetually bleeding wound on her muzzle because her cartilage had been mutilated by several piercings. She also had no teeth in her mouth, weighed 55 kilos and she had a ginger coloured scanty coat. For 8 years she had been made to walk for more than 12 hours a day on hot tar roads in the poorest states of India. She had been given frugal meals which made her severely malnourished. This had caused her to be both very fragile and blind.
The first three days after her rescue, Kaveri was very fearful. The poor girl was so accustomed to having no freedom, that once her rope was removed, she didnâ€™t know where to go. Her situation was complicated by her blindness. She was completely blind in one eye and partially blind in the other. Therefore, she was very confused and would crouch in a corner of her den when approached by a bear keeper.
The veterinarians and other staff were very concerned about her. They decided to delay any further medical interventions with her and just focus on winning her trust. The bear keeper decided to try and accomplish this by wooing her with fruits and honey. With these treats he slowly enticed her out of her den into a little enclosure with trees, a pond and some climbing platforms. He helped her realize that her powerful sense of smell could be her guide. Using this gentle method of combining treats with encouragement; Kaveri began to take short walks in her enclosure. The walks gradually got longer, until one day, our lovely Kaveri walked out of the den by herself and there was no turning back. She had marked her route and knew it by heart. Ever since that day she has been independent and goes outside whenever she desires to participate in whatever adventures lay outside the den.
Kaveri didnâ€™t have a single canine or incisor when she entered the centre as the stumps had rotted and left her with painfully exposed nerves. Several sessions of dentistry surgery, dental cleaning, root filling / extraction followed until she had a healthier mouth. During this entire period the keepers and vets fed her mashed fruits like watermelons, bananas and papayas and thinned her porridge to a gruel consistency to help her eat.
Today, Kaveri weighs 78 kilos. She is given calcium everyday for her bones and is also given a little extra milk everyday with the porridge. She has made some friends for life, like Ganesha and Shalini. Ganesha is her closest ally and the only one who is allowed to eat with her. Nishanth is her â€˜Pond friendâ€™ thatâ€™s what the staff calls him. She meets him only at the pond in the enclosure. They dig trenches together, take a snooze in it and then itâ€™s back to their own dens. Kaveri has mastered everything about her enclosure and enjoys the variations in the enrichment.
Her newest favourite is the climbing platform. Her keeper, Rizwan, was amazed to see Kaveri standing on the platform one day. We never expected her to climb on because of her complete blindness but she tried and tried and made it to the top.
To be able to enjoy Kaveriâ€™s antics and watch her become healthy and free of pain has been a rewarding experience for us.
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