Bear of the Month, Chitra, Celebrates 12 years with Wildlife SOS

December 17, 2020 | By Mahima Sharma

Twelve years ago, a nervous Kalandar walked into the Wildlife SOS Bannerghatta Bear Rescue Centre with an old, emaciated bear, being tugged at the end of a 2-foot long rope. Her droopy eyes scanned her surroundings – the new faces, the unfamiliar calls of the wild, the pleasant gust of wind that soothed her. Chitra’s story was similar to that of 628 dancing bears that were rescued by Wildlife SOS, having undergone immense physical and psychological trauma.

For Chitra, the initial days were challenging, to say the least – our bear care staff would observe Chitra aggressively swaying her head for hours at an end in distress. She would sit in the corner observing the other bears but reacted very aggressively when approached. The bear care staff and the veterinary team knew that utmost care has to be rendered when it came to Chitra, who was still haunted by past life.

Chitra was rescued as a dancing bear from Karnataka.
Chitra was rescued as a dancing bear from Karnataka. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Lenu Kannan]

Gradually, Chitra grew comfortable in her forever home and would be spotted carefully examining the structural enrichments in her free-ranging field. She started actively digging pits, climbing trees and even, rested under the sun for hours at a stretch. Before we knew it, Chitra became a popular sloth bear among visitors, volunteers and the bear care staff!

Today, Chitra spends most of her days resting in freshly dug mud pits or hammocks to bask under the warm winter sun. As she is over twenty years old, Chitra has been placed under geriatric care and receives specialized veterinary attention along with a carefully curated diet that enables her to fight off diseases and maintain her strength. Chitra undergoes regular dental procedures which helps the veterinary team keep close scrutiny on her dental hygiene to avoid long-term damage to enamels and gums.

The struggle to remain awake after a delicious helping of porridge is real - as Chitra shows!
The struggle to remain awake after a delicious helping of porridge is real – as Chitra shows! [Photo (C) Wildlife SOS/Lenu Kannan]

Chitra’s movement and agility have been reduced due to her age and her arthritic limbs, hence she prefers to rest on low-levelled platform enrichments. Other than this, food-based enrichments, honey-covered logs and enrichment balls are the best way to keep Chitra motivated without over-exerting herself. She has always enjoyed her own company, seldom interacting with other bears! However, in a delightful turn of events, we have noticed Chitra’s growing friendship with Amrita, another geriatric bear who shares her enclosure with Chitra. The duo can be seen digging mud pits and catching short naps in the hooded corners of their field!

Chitra basking under the sun on a warm winter morning.
Chitra basking under the sun on a warm winter morning. [Photo (C) Wildlife SOS/Lenu Kannan]

With winters right around the corner, the bears’ diets and routines have been altered. To ensure that Chitra is snug during the night, her den has heating equipment and straw bedding. She also enjoys a special winter diet consisting of hot porridge along with jaggery (molasses) and puffed rice balls; a steady supply of nutrients and vitamins is also provided with her daily meals. She also enjoys the occasional papaya & egg.

Understanding her geriatric needs, the structural enrichments in her field allow proper exercise and no strain.
Understanding her geriatric needs, the structural enrichments in her field allow proper exercise and no strain. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Lenu Kannan]

From a timid, weak bear, Chitra presently weighs a healthy 75 kgs and continues to receive intensive treatment for her age-related ailments. Her twelve-year long journey recounts her perseverance, grit and strength in all these years, making her the special bear that she is.

Celebrating Chitra's 12-year long journey of strength and care, happy 12th rescueversary!
Celebrating Chitra’s journey of strength and care, happy 12th rescueversary! [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Lenu Kannan]

You can play an intrinsic role in Chitra’s healing journey by contributing to her ongoing care or by becoming a sponsor to know all that this lively bear is upto!

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