In the world of conservation, the phenomenon of poaching is a dreaded nemesis that all preservationists have to deal with. For all efforts made by thousands of organisations around the world, the continued threat of poaching seems like an inescapable thorn. Every organisation worth its salt contributes a significant amount of time and resources to combat the menace posed by poaching.
Wildlife SOS’ anti-poaching unit ‘Forestwatch’ works to curb the illegal trade and trafficking of wildlife and wildlife products – birds, mammals and reptiles, including pelts, bones and body parts harvested from animals. In November, 2019 ‘Forestwatch’ intercepted intelligence that a group of wildlife traffickers in possession of five sloth bears were hiding in a remote forested area near the Indo-Nepal border area. The bears were intended for sale by the wildlife traffickers with their teeth smashed with metal rods and muzzles mutilated. Based on the intelligence provided by Wildlife SOS, the traffickers were intercepted by the Jharkhand forest department and police and the bears were safely transferred to the Agra Bear Rescue Facility where a new life awaited them.
These bears were christened after the Weasley family in the popular children’s book series ‘Harry Potter’ Aged between 2 and 10 years, Arthur and Molly are the oldest of the group, with Ron, Ginny and Charlie being the younger bears. When they arrived at the centre, all of them were placed in quarantine. During this period, the veterinarians at Wildlife SOS conducted a detailed medical examination of the bears to check their health. Arthur, Molly, Ron, Charlie & Ginny adapted to their new settings within a few short weeks.
After their quarantine ended, Ron, Charlie and Ginny were placed in the same enclosure due to their comfort with each other and similar age! For Arthur & Molly too, this was life as they’d never experienced it. It was of import to keep this force of nature busy, so the keepers got to work building tons of enrichments for the new residents. Enrichments are for providing stimulating environments by encouraging them to engage in items and surroundings that encourage naturalistic behavior. Some structural enrichments were built to encourage natural locomotion – like wooden platforms, and climbing structures.
Over the past ten months, the Weasleys have taken the centre by storm. Ron, Charlie & Ginny spend almost all their time out in the open Their enclosure is always a myriad of activity with mock wrestles occupying the dominant spot. Arthur and Molly, while calmer than Ron, Ginny & Charlie, are also as eager to try out the fun enrichments in their enclosure and enjoy taking peaceful naps on the platforms! Undoubtedly, Arthur & Molly’s favourite meal is the honey laced porridge, that’s a mix of many healthy ingredients like Jowar, Bajra, jackfruit and chickpeas garnished with a generous dollop of honey.
For Ron, Ginny & Charlie, fresh cut fruits like pomegranate, watermelon, seasonal mangoes & papayas take the cake! As monsoon makes an appearance in Uttar Pradesh, the keepers have noticed that Arthur & Molly do not much enjoy the rains and tend to keep to their dens. Ron, Ginny & Charlie however, spend almost all their time out in the open despite the rains. Ron & Charlie are the more boisterous of the lot while Ginny is the sleuth who takes advantage of their spirited interaction to spirit away their fruits!
Lady Fortune was on the side of the Weasleys as they were extremely lucky. If information of their captivity had not reached the authorities, they would have been living an extremely painful life full of lifelong trauma. India’s porous borders make it easy for traffickers to carry on their operations under the covert blanket of darkness. With the rescue of the Weasleys, we have come one step closer to eradicating the threat to Indian sloth bears.