By Aishuwarya Sudarshan
It was a very cold day at the gardens of Srinagar, in Kashmir; the gardeners were working in the grounds, raking out fallen leaves around the tulips, the famous tulips of the Cheshmashahi gardens to which thousands of tourists flocked each day with their cameras and appreciative exclamations. The horticulture department of Kashmir took pride in their work and everyone worked with silent concentration before the gardens could be thrown open to the public for the morning, they took their tulips very seriously! No-one quite knew how to react when the calm of the morning work was broken suddenly by a very loud startled yelp and the galloping of a very large female moon bear across the green lawns to vanish into some shrubbery.
After gathering their wits and all possible courage, the garden crew got together and inched towards the shrubbery. Nothing could have prepared them for what they saw…. a make shift den in which two new born bear cubs that hadnâ€™t even opened their eyes, nestled oblivious to the staring strangers.
In an amazingly courageous and conservation friendly gesture the gardeners simply withdrew without disturbing the cubs or searching for the obviously panicked and nervous mother bear. Unlike the majority who had in the past reacted with swift savagery killing both mother and cubs, the workers informed the Wildlife Department and the Wildlife SOS team and then waited until the wildlife officials and our team reached the location.
Our first objective was to try and reunite the cubs with their mother. Our team stayed on site out of sight, waiting for the mother to return in search of her babies. For a female moon bear, her cubs mean a lot to her and she will defend her babies aggressively. The fact that she disappeared abandoning her cubs possibly meant that she was possibly an inexperienced first time mother. The mother bear did not return and our team took turns feeding the cubs to keep them safe and alive while waiting in hiding for the female bear to return.
Slowly the days passed, and the team waiting on site continued feeding the cubs, grew dispirited. The days dragged on and became a fortnight, hoping the mother would show up, but the department could not keep that part of the garden cordoned off much longer. Moreover the team decided the little cubs were at risk so a joint decision was taken and it was decided that since there was no signs of the mother bear returning for the cubs, the cubs would need to be moved to transit facility and rescue centre run by the Forest Dept in collaboration with Wildlife SOS at Dachigam on the outskirts of Srinagar.
Now, when you have two bear cubs to look after and care for, you start feeling like a parent after a while and nobody gets any sleep. The team found themselves asking for one of the experienced vets from Agra to check that they were indeed doing their best and safeguarding the privacy and quiet of the cubs became everyoneâ€™s task at the centre. The two sisters now named â€˜Rozieâ€™ and â€˜Fancyâ€™ were frankly quite inseparable, everything had to be done together, even their routine weight checks were quite a task because, if one went on the scale, the other would promptly hop on making it hard to weigh any one of them separately! They ate together out of one feed bowl first and then moved “together” to the second bowl of milk and porridge later. Trying to figure exactly what quantity which one had eaten was impossibility and a challenge for our vets and keepers!
Rozie was the more playful of the two cubs and was always looking for something to chew, shred, tear and destroy and Fancy was a very willing assistant. It has been more than 5 years since the two bears were rescued but even today, despite being adults they play like little cubs. Rozie has of course become a lot gentler but she still remains the leader, always more adventurous than her calmer sibling Fancy. She loves apples and honey and her meal results in a volley of the funniest lip smacking sounds after she has licked her plate clean. She is extremely active and has a beautiful coat and beautiful “Mickey mouse” ears.
Each day after their meal, Rozie and her sister will dig a new trench and fall asleep in them, near the pond. If the weather calls for a splashing, she and her sister will be seen jumping, floating and fighting in the pond. Rozie cares for her sister more than anybody else. She is still a child at heart with her jump -out -of â€“the- bush game and letâ€™s â€“startle- the -keeper by- hiding game and it warms our heart to see these healthy bears. We would have preferred to have united them with their mother and have them forage as wild bears in the forests, but to try and reintroduce bears that have been fostered from a very young age risks having these bears become dependent on humans and approaching villages for food as they have not learnt from their mother the art of survival in the forest.
Click here to Sponsor Rozie and Fancy