Mornings at the Agra Bear Rescue Facility find our rescued bears lazing about their enclosures or still fast asleep in their dens, but this morning, the centre was abuzz with activity, and even the animals could sense the excitement. With nearly 150 students from a private school in Noida visiting the centre, the flurry of activity was understandable and the anticipation in the morning air was palpable.
As the buses rolled in, winding through the muddy trails of the Sur Sarovar Bird Sanctuary, of which the bear sanctuary is a part, the murmur of excited voices mixed with the calls of the migratory birds lining the lakeside. The children were greeted by Wildlife SOS staff and then taken, in groups, to the bear sanctuary. Along the way, they got absorbed the tranquility of the bird sanctuary and the lake, and were also given a brief introduction to the place they were about to visit and the animals in it.
Accompanied by the staff and their teachers, they strolled in through the gates and wandered along the walkway, finding themselves surrounded by signboards between leafy trees, depicting Wildlife SOS’ journey rescuing sloth bears from the cruel dancing bear trade. As they descended from the walkway, the children had to suppress squeals of delight as they came face to face with the animals they had been learning about.
Three shaggy sloth bears sat right at the front of their enclosure, only momentarily distracted from their delicious snack of coconuts by the approaching children. As the groups of students walked through the sanctuary, they got a chance to see more bears, and learn about their history of abuse and heartwarming rescues from the staff, while observing them play, forage and sleep in their enclosures. A few of the more inquisitive bears walked up to the front of their enclosures and sniffed curiously at the air with their comical snouts, while the shyer ones remained peacefully in their dens or in the forested parts of their enclosures. The children were thrilled to be introduced to some of the friendlier bears at the centre, and rescued dancing bears Gail, Julie and Johnny sauntered right to the front of the enclosures and greeted the children with playful snorts and chuffs- and became instant favourites among the students.
The students learnt a lot on the walk, as the vets and staff talked to them about sloth bears and the work Wildlife SOS does to protect them. They even got a chance to meet some of the bear keepers and members of the rescue team, and were enthusiastically throwing questions at the staff at every opportunity.
Following a documentary viewing and some light refreshments, the children were in for an awe-inspiring demonstration by ABRF senior veterinarian Dr. Ilayaraja S. who showed his thoroughly captive audience of nine and ten year olds how tranquiliser guns and blow darts work! They even got a chance to interact with the vets and get a glimpse of the rescue centre’s operation theatre, before settling down for lunch amidst the trees and birdcalls of the sanctuary.
Forlorn goodbyes to the bears completed, the troop of little wildlife enthusiasts finished their lunch and begrudgingly made their way slowly back to the waiting buses, sad to leave their new furry friends behind after their exciting morning visit. They snuck in a few last questions about wildlife and conservation as the staff accompanied them back to their transport, diligently noting down everything they learnt in little notepads.
The teachers thanked the staff profusely, and the children promised to visit again, as the buses slowly made their way out of the sanctuary and back towards Delhi.
If you want to plan a visit to our sanctuaries and find out more about the amazing animals we work with or the work that we do, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.