Bidding Farewell To Our Dearest Butterball

July 13, 2023 | By Sutirtho Roy
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Saying goodbye is never easy. With a heavy heart, we bid adieu to our dearest Butterball. Butterball was just a cub when she arrived at Agra Bear Rescue Facility back in 2003. As we look back on her journey with Wildlife SOS, we are reminded of how she narrowly escaped the grasp of brutality.

Sloth bear cubs remain under their mother’s watchful eyes for the formative years of their life, but Butterball wasn’t that lucky. While they can put up a fight against the biggest of wild predators, sloth bear mothers are helpless against human onslaught.

Butterball would love to climb on the trees to survey her surroundings. [Photo © Wildlife SOS/Shresatha Pachori]

Orphaned at a young age, little Butterball had to suffer through the loss of her mother as she was passed around in the hands of strangers, with no future in sight. She almost fell victim to the cruel ‘dancing’ bear tradition that would entail a destiny of abuse, neglect, and malnutrition. To make them obey commands, sloth bears in the practice were tormented: their canines were broken, and their muzzles were pierced with a hot rod for a tugging rope to pass through. 

However, Butterball narrowly escaped such a fate and retained her canines throughout her life. Even while mourning our loss, the silver lining to this dark cloud of grief rests in our realisation, that Butterball was luckier than most of her fellow ursines.

Butterball was just ten-months-old when she was rescued from becoming a ‘dancing’ bear, and was brought to the Agra Bear Rescue Facility for long-term care. [Photo © Wildlife SOS/Shresatha Pachori]

Fortunately, the Wildlife SOS anti-poaching team managed to rescue the 10-month-old cub before she could be auctioned to a Kalandar community. While nothing can truly replace a mother’s love, Butterball found a new lease of life under the dedicated care of caregivers and vets at the Agra Bear Rescue Facility (ABRF).

Butterball’s vivacity and enormous fondness for food made her the apple of everyone’s eye at ABRF. As the first one to arrive at the feeding area, she would gobble up her food in a jiffy and would quickly run back into her field. Around noon time, Butterball would be spotted under bamboos or on her platform enrichment placed in her enclosure.

An active bear, Butterball would explore every aspect of her field and would resort to tree trunks to scratch her back on! [Photo © Wildlife SOS/Shresatha Pachori]

An adept climber, Butterball would often scale up short trees in her field. Many a time, we would spot her resting on her wooden platform. She was one of the largest and healthiest bears in our centre, and it was delightful to watch her interacting with fellow ursines. Butterball was an active and social bear, and got along very well with the male bears in her enclosure.

Chotu and Vishnu were her companions for a large part of her life, and the antics of these three musketeers remain bittersweet in our memory. Her keeper was especially fond of Butterball, who had been in our care for over twenty years. Her caregiver Chandrasekhar remarked – “She was a great bear. She used to roam without a care in the world.” Even till her last days, Butterball remained as active and feisty as ever, with her fondness for eating never diminishing in the least.

Butterball would display her climbing skills each time she would move up to her wooden platform to take rest. [Photo [c] Wildlife SOS/Shresatha Pachori] 

The pain in her caregivers’ voice was palpable, as a bond twenty years in the making drew to a close. Age takes a toll on all, but cheerful Butterball is bound to live on in our minds. While remaining as spirited as ever till the end of days, her body could not withstand time’s ceaseless ravages. She was under geriatric care at ABRF and was under constant medical supervision. An unfortunate cardiac arrest caused her sudden and untimely demise. 

As a new day dawns over the Agra Bear Rescue Facility, our hearts ache all the more deeply. Her caregivers affectionately recall her amiability and the wonderful bond of trust she had formed with them. After two decades of receiving love and the utmost care, her absence has now left a gaping void.

Butterball will always be remembered for her incredible vivacity. [Photo © Wildlife SOS/Shresatha Pachori] 

It is heart-rending to know that we will no longer spot magnificent Butterball display the gravitas of an adult sloth bear. She never experienced the wild lands where her kind is meant to dwell in, but we are happy to have provided her a space that closely resembles her natural habitat. Though she is no longer with us, Butterball’s resilience inspires us to continue our journey of rescuing wildlife in distress with greatest determination.

Butterball has shown us how to make the most of life and live every moment with gusto. We hope she gets to reunite with our Bean, Gulabo, Ginny, Charlie, Gail and all our other departed bears in the great beyond, where her new life is filled with endless cheer, boundless freedom and all the peanut “butterballs” that she can enjoy. 

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