This is the third interview in a series that we are doing on the great people who make the work at Wildlife SOS possible. This interview is with Dr. Raja, who is the Senior Veterinary Officer, at the Agra Bear Rescue Facility. His dedication has kept our bears healthy and happy and we are very grateful to his contribution and commitment to ending the suffering of ‘dancing bears’ in India.
1.) How long have you been a vet for Wildlife SOS? I started working for Wildlife SOS in February of 2004, so I have been with the organization for over 8 years.
2.) Tell us how you became interested in working with bears? I had observed that in veterinarian medicine that there were a lot of highly skilled people who were caring for domestic and companion animals, but there were not many who were focused on helping wildlife. I wanted to help fill that void; therefore, I have devoted myself to learning everything possible in the world of wildlife medicine. I also would add that the fact that I work with rescued bears gives me a sense of pride that I am providing a great service to animals that have been so unfortunate, and that gives my soul satisfaction.
3.) Tell us about what you find most interesting about working with bears? The bears in my care have never truly learned how to be bears. Therefore, there is a challenge and a thrill in helping them discover themselves. I find it interesting to try and find ways to facilitate their natural play and foraging behaviors. It isn’t easy. There isn’t one approach that works for all bears. Therefore, I am constatly challenged and problem solving to find ways to help them. Working with so any bears it is impossible to ever complain of boredom. They keep me on my toes!
4.) Tell us about one of the bears who is special to you. There is a blind bear by the name of Ganesha who is very special to me. He is a gentle giant and very calm and diplomatic. Although he is blind, I believe his is content with his life and I enjoy watching him and being around him.
5.) Tell us about what it is like working with the bears? The best comparison I can give is that it is like being a cross betwween a mother, a pediatrician and a school teacher! None of them are easy jobs. They need the nurturing a mother brings, a healthy uprbringing that a doctor brings and of course like a school teacher, they need somebody to just make sure they everybody gets along.
6.) What is one of your biggest challenges with working at the Agra Facility? You need to be ready for everything. Beyond making sure all of the bears are healthy, we need to be ready for the hard knocks that nature can bring. Last year we had terrible floods that were very scary for us. We made it out ok, but it does remind you that need to be ready for almost any situation.
7.) What else do you treat besides the bears? I treat whatever needs help. I do get a lot of calls about wildlife that has been injured on the roads. Some of the other aimals I have trated included snakes, elephants, tigers, hyenas and dogs.