In the densely forested area of the Bannerghatta Bear Rescue Centre, in Bengaluru, Dadapeer can be spotted hurriedly making his way to the bear kitchen as it nears feeding time! His brisk walking style and larger-than-life attitude make him a special member of the Wildlife SOS bear care team.
Today, we bring to you the story of Dadapeer who is a member of bear kitchen staff and has a very important duty towards the bears – making their delicious porridge!
- How long have you been working with Wildlife SOS?
I have been working at the Bannerghatta Bear Rescue Centre for the past 8 years. I belong to the Kalandar community and for the longest time we were solely dependent on the “dancing bear” practice for survival. My introduction to the work here as a bear caregiver also introduced me to the ethical and humane manner in caring for the bears, who now live a comfortable life with us!
- You have a very important task at your hand – preparing the porridge for our rescued sloth bears! Can you tell us something about that?
In India, it is believed that any living being will be the happiest when their bellies are full. My family has seen some dark days where we couldn’t afford three meals a day and our bears would go hungry as well. That’s when I realised the importance of a good, hearty meal and that’s probably why I chose to work in the bear kitchen, here at Wildlife SOS. I enjoy preparing porridge for the bears, often improvising it by putting jaggery, coconut or dates in it – especially for the bears who are fussy eaters. The most crucial part is not the preparation of the porridge, but ensuring that it reaches the bears piping hot – just how they like it!
- Could you tell us how the porridge is prepared?
The chef never tells his secrets, but I will make an exception for our readers, certainly! The recipe involves mixing water, jaggery and various flours (like millet, wheat, etc.) together to achieve thick consistency. It takes half an hour to prepare the porridge and about 15 mins to pour it separately for our sloth bears. I like to add dollops of honey, dates, boiled eggs and coconut shavings for garnishing the porridge. As per the suggestions of our veterinary team and depending on the diet chart of the individual bear, we add immunoboosters and multivitamins in the porridge and mix it.
- What have been the best reactions that you observed while bringing the porridge to the bears?
Their reactions are immensely heartwarming and bring an instant smile to my face! The moment they see me bringing the porridge towards them, they come running to the feeding area. It becomes a torrid task for them to wait when the porridge is being poured. More often than not, they display their impatience through grunts and pacing. The most notable reaction is when they finish their porridge and expectantly look at the bear care staff for another helping!
- What sanitisation protocols are now being followed in the bear kitchen since the outbreak of COVID19 pandemic?
For the bear care staff working in the bear kitchen, there were always standard protocols in place and mandatory to abide by. We have to wash our hands, sanitise them and wear gloves, along with wearing a cap covering our head and the face mask is necessary. Outside the bear kitchen, there is a shoe sanitisation mat, which is where we dip our shoes before entering the kitchen. I am the first person to enter the bear kitchen and the last person to leave, hence it is my duty to clean and sanitise every corner twice a day, every day.
These are difficult times for all of us and the animals as well, hence I urge everyone to be very careful!
- Is there a message you would like to give our readers?
Thank you for extending your support to Wildlife SOS and our sloth bears during these harrowing times of the pandemic. Everything will be fine very soon, I have been watching the news each day in the hope of the vaccination! I request everyone to wear a mask and follow proper measures of hygiene, please do not step out unless absolutely necessary.
I hope to see everyone visit the centre soon, I will make food for everyone and it won’t be just porridge!