Lallu Master has one of the more unusual personalities, compared to most bears residing at the Agra Bear Rescue Facility (ABRF). While Sloth bears in the wild are solitary by nature, many of the rescued Sloth bears at Wildlife SOS live together in groups. but Lallu Master enjoys his own company the most! Our Bear of the Month has come a long way since he was rescued from a cruel life of ‘dancing’ and commercial exploitation in 2003.
At the time of his rescue, Lallu Master was suffering from emaciation. He had an abnormal gait, and lack of nutrition and proper hydration over the years had turned his skin extremely rough and dry. His coat, which would have been thick and shaggy had he lived in the wild, had thinned out to a pitiful state with patches of hair missing on many parts of his body. He also had a deep wound on his muzzle, which had been pierced for the purpose of making him ‘dance’ in front of tourists. This wound was kept fresh by the continuous tugging of the rope, and was never allowed to heal properly, so that he would continue to suffer in agony and be afraid of his owners.
When he first arrived at the Agra Bear Rescue Facility ABRF), Lallu Master was understandably frightened of humans. Whenever a veterinary officer or caregiver would approach Lallu Master, he would curl up, presuming he would be beaten and made to ‘dance’ again.
To gain his trust, the team undertook positive conditioning methods. Lallu Master was rewarded with yummy treats and honey each time he cooperated with the veterinary team. However, his skittish nature never really evaded him, and he continues to be a shy bear to this day. Perhaps this is exactly how he would have been, had he been living a life in the wilderness. Or perhaps this reflects the mental scars inflicted on him during his time as a ‘dancing’ bear, leading him to remain extremely alert and cautious even at his advanced age.
Unlike bears who remain solitary in the wild, most of the rescued Sloth bears at Wildlife SOS stay together in groups after they form bonds with each other. Coming from similar tragic backgrounds, many of their natural behaviours were altered to a great extent while they were captive, which is why they cannot be released back into the wild. To provide them with care and a better quality of life at the rescue centres, they are given several enrichments to play with, and are often introduced to other bears so that they can experience companionship.
After a careful assessment, the veterinary team introduced Lallu Master to another bear named Leena – a former ‘dancing’ bear who mostly kept to herself and did not have a loud or excitable nature that could alarm him. After shifting Lallu Master to Leena’s enclosure, the two were observed together for a while to see if they would get along. Lallu Master sniffed Leena curiously, but the latter seemed rather disinterested. When it came time to feed the bears, Leena did not seem keen on sharing her space and growled at Lallu Master, which caused him to run to the far side of the enclosure! Though Leena did not harm him physically, Lallu Master was so shaken by this incident that he attempted to dig a hole under the fence lining this enclosure to escape into the one that he used to live in before.
The bear care team shifted Lallu Master to his former enclosure, where he stayed alone for some more time. After fresh discussions, it was decided that Lallu Master could be introduced to one more bear — someone who might be a bit more friendly and playful than the quiet Leena. A prospective opening was seen when enclosure mates Molly and Arthur were shifted to separate enclosures after Arthur began to exhibit symptoms of uneasiness when the two played together.
The bear care team anticipated that Molly’s kind and friendly nature could encourage Lallu Master to come out of his shell. Curious Molly from the Weasely family is at ease around new people or bears, and loves to remain active with her enrichments. She is seen constantly playing with her ball enrichment, or climbing atop her bamboo platform, or even digging pits in the ground to look for worms.
When the two were put together, Molly seemed excited by the prospect of a new friend in her enclosure, but Lallu Master remained reserved. Molly’s attempts to get him to play did not work, and Lallu Master did not use any of the wide selection of enrichments laid out in the field.
When Molly realised that her attempts to get Lallu Master to play were futile, she resigned herself to one half of the field, while Lallu Master remained in the other half. Understanding that he preferred his own company, the took a call to give Lallu Master his very own enclosure. He continues to live in a solitary field, where he spends his time joyfully digging up insect mounds and basking in the sun.
Lallu Master’s enclosure is in a thicket of trees and bushes, away from the eyes of any visitors, as he doesn’t take kindly to the presence of newcomers. If he senses a new presence, he freezes and eyes them curiously, before growling and scampering off. However, he has become accustomed to the presence of a few veterinary officers as well as his own caregiver. Anyone whom Lallu Master feels comfortable with is bound to feel special, knowing that they have been accepted by a bear who likes only a select few people!
Caring for Lallu Master has been a learning experience for the entire team of Wildlife SOS, but our team is glad to see that he remains calm and comfortable in his own skin. We hope that you will continue to support our endeavours for all the rescued bears for many more years to come.
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