Wildlife SOS Moon Bear Transit Facility and Rescue Centre, Kashmir
By Aishuwarya Sudarshan
The first sight that takes your breath away is the stunning image of gorgeous Black Bears with white crescents on their chest against the stark white glow of the snow enveloping them. The Wildlife Departments Moon Bear Transit Facility and Rescue Centre in collaboration with Wildlife SOS, in Kashmir is presently home to 4 bears. The cubs finish five years at the centre this year and the journey has been wonderful.
The centre that was run by the wildlife department was used to house the 2 female bear cubs whose mother had abandoned them when she spotted human presence, from the chashmeshahi gardens. The cubs were really small and needed a lot of care and attention. These cubs grew into two beautiful bears “Rozie” and “Fancy”.
Less than 2 months after the cubs came to our centre. We received a call about another bear cub that was stuck in a hole and after the mother was driven away by ignorant villagers near Seer, a district in the Hamadan division of Kashmir. We rushed to the site and found a feisty little female cub that had already learnt how to behave in the wild. She was tiny for her age. Julie the bear cub as she was fondly named started forming a strong bond with her keeper and we knew if she was released chances are she would keep going near human settlements and could lead to an attack in the future. It did not seem like a wise decision to reintroduce her just to become a problem bear. So after discussions with the Wildlife Department, it was decided that Julie would stay on in the rescue center and join the other 2 cubs.
Our 4th cub that was a male bear came to us after being rescued by the villagers of the Kishtiwar region. He was first housed at the other centre in Pahalgam but was shifted to this centre when he started growing. â€˜Sahibâ€™ turned into a stunning Alpha male. He ate like one, was wild like one and had a temper like one too! It took a lot of work, cajoling and sweet talking for him to start trusting the keepers. He had a voracious appetite and always seemed hungry.
They are all 5 years old now and have grown in the last 5 years. Sahib weighs over 150 kilograms and loves apples. He is still the alpha male and enjoys climbing trees. Julie is the quiet girl who likes spending her days playing near the pond and watching nature from her spot on the tree. She is a fussy eater and has a few tantrums to throw when she doesn’t feel like eating. The two sisters Rozie and Fancy are big, naughty and boisterous. They are extremely friendly and enjoy running around everywhere, fighting and playing in the water.
While the vets check up on the bears and ensure they receive their medication regularly, our keepers Ghulam Hassan, Farooq Ahmed and Aabid share a close bond with the bears and have seen all the cubs grown into handsome adults. They have witnessed their maiden attempts at tree climbing, seen aborted attempts, nursed them when they were sick and made sure they were always active and playful.
The keepers tell us that the favorite activity of these bears in the winter is to spend the day indoors and watch the snow outside. At times they will also go out and play in the deep snow. They are given highly nutritious meals to deal with the harsh weather. In the summers they enjoy playing in the pond and staying outside.
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