A group of thirteen students from the Chinmaya International School volunteered at Wildlife SOS’ Agra Bear Rescue Facility and Elephant Conservation and Care Centre for a week towards the end of the last month. The students had at least two things in common- they were all from the twelfth standard and were incredibly passionate about wildlife. Accompanied by two teachers from their school, the students sat through an interactive orientation session with our centre head and volunteer coordinators who explained to them the work Wildlife SOS does and told them about the wonderful animals they were going to be working with at the rescue facilities. The children were bubbling over with excitement and seemed keen to learn as much as they could from the experts at the centre, with the curious wildlife enthusiasts raising interesting questions and engaging our staff in lively discussion about dancing bears, captive elephants and the awareness work being done to help eliminate animal cruelty.
The children were given a tour of the bear sanctuary and were completely in awe of the playful, beautiful animals in our care. They had the best time wandering from enclosure to enclosure, watching the animals play, eat and loll about in the grass or laze in their hammocks. They were particularly fascinated by the enrichments in the enclosures, after having learned that these are provided to enhance the bears’ natural skills and instincts and to keep them playful, active and thereby healthy. Besides, the sloth bears always look adorable when they play on the structural enrichments or forage for honey or nuts in the rest, so there was no dearth of visual entertainment for our enthusiastic bunch of young volunteers.
Once they had understood the work we do, and witnessed it firsthand during the tour, they were set to work, on cleaning routines, painting work and preparing food and treats for the animals. It didn’t seem like hard work to this proactive group of youngsters as they were seen excitedly painting and constructing enrichments, chattering happily through it all.
The Elephant Conservation and Care centre provided extra thrills, as the children met the gentle giants in our care and heard their heartwarming stories of recovery. The elephants were a joy to be around and interacted calmly with the students who delighted in accompanying them on their walks, preparing fruit for their meals and cleaning their enclosures and pools. Everyone agreed that their favourite part of the work at the elephant centre was bath-time, as they got to hose down and scrub the elephants, who always thoroughly enjoy a cooling shower in the summer.
The week ended with a lot learned, a lot of work done and a lot of hearts won, as the students not only reported that they would love to return to the sanctuary for a second time, but also promised to support Wildlife SOS, motivated by their fulfilling experience at ABRF & ECCC.