“Ajeet the Sloth Bear,” an Interview with Author Gail Hunte

April 20, 2021 | By dw

Gail Hunte recently wrote a children’s book about a ‘dancing bear’.  The book follows the life of ‘Ajeet’, a sloth bear, that is captured when he is a cub. We recently interviewed the author to find out more about what inspired her to write the book and what are her new projects for the future.  

Where did you come up with the idea to do a story about a ‘dancing bear’ in India?

The idea about Ajeet begun when I was still living in London. At that time I didn’t know about Wildlife SOS, but wanted to do something to help these bears. , I drafted the outline of the story but didn’t really do anything with it. Fast forward when I moved to Barbados and came across sloth bears once again on the internet from a Wildlife SOS photo. I then revisited the story, made changes, and here we are.

Why did you decide to tell the story of Ajeet in a children’s book?

It’s a cliche, but children are the future when it comes to animal welfare and conservation, so we need to reach them and storytelling is one way. The thing I needed to do was make a horrific act become palatable for children to read in the form of a story. Ajeet represents all sloth bears and their voices needed to be heard from what I hope is their perspective. He’s a cute bear which children can warm to.

Illustration by Rhonda Van

Have you personally ever seen a ‘dancing bear’ either in India or somewhere else?

Yes on the internet. But I plan to visit Wildlife SOS and meet the sloth bears that have been rescued at the Agra Bear sanctuary. For now, I have to satisfy myself with the wonderful stories and photos that Wildlife SOS shares on your social media platforms of them happy and safe. I know there’s a lot of heartache in the work you do, too.

How did you hear about Wildlife SOS?

Through a sloth bear photo, I think it was the one with the sloth bear on one of your founder’s back. You know the photo, but either way, I was led to visit your website. I then learned more about your wildlife conservation work and the amazing rescue and rehabilitations that you do.  

What is the take away message you hope that kids have from reading the book?

The main message is for kids to understand why wildlife conservation matters.  The sloth bear facts Wildlife SOS provided in the book, also help learn more about these bears which makes it educational.

What has the response been from your book so far?

When it first came out it was on Amazon Hot New Releases for a few days and I was super excited when it got to number one. I also got the chance to read the book during a virtual school assembly and the children loved it. Everyone I know who brought the book has said their kids loved it, I was happy it also appealed to boys when my friend who brought it for her grandson said he asked for permission to read it to his classmates on zoom.  I intend to do more school readings and really hope to get a breakthrough so I can reach children in India. 

Illustration by Rhonda Van

What other books have you written?

I’ve written Gracie and the Green Monkey which is due out very soon and Gracie and the Black Belly Sheep which is scheduled for an April/May 2021 release. I also have other manuscripts that I hope to place with a publisher or self-publish. They include one about dolphins and a frog and cat who are best friends and have adventures where they meet lots of different species of animals. 

Are there any books you are planning to write now?

My secret is coming out, as I would like to write a book based around one of the Wildlife SOS elephant rescues. It will be book two in the Wild About the Animals conservation series, with Ajeet having been the first.

You live in Barbados,  many of the people reading this article have never been there, what would you like people to know about the island?

Barbados is located in the Caribbean and is tiny, being only 34 kilometers long and 23 kilometers wide. But it has year-round sunshine and beautiful beaches which tourists love.  It is also home to the African Green Vervet Monkey which came to the island a few hundred years ago. The animal charity that I’m with, plants fruit trees for them and advocates on their behalf, (hence the title of my next book release). There are also many of us who do a lot to help domestic animals here, like cats and dogs. We also have people that rescue and help horses and livestock. There’s also a sanctuary that helps exotic animals and we have a sea turtle project. Not bad for a small island, but like lots of other places, education and advocacy is constantly ongoing in terms of all the animal welfare issues.

Some proceeds from the sale of your book benefit Wildlife SOS.

Where can people go to purchase it who are interested in buying it? They can purchase the book in paperback or kindle from the publisher Who Chains You Publishing, at online bookstores like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Bookstore, Indigo, and Angus & Robertson. I’m aiming to get the book into some online Indian bookshops or a store. I also have links to the book on my website gailjewelhunte.com 

Every time I see a sloth photo or read about them, I think of Ajeet and hope his story is making a difference, along with what is already being done to help them. 

I love them.

Gail Hunte at a goat farm in Barbados.

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