Bear Diary: Charming Chitra Completes 15 Years At BBRC! 

December 28, 2023 | By Tushti Sharma
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In 2008, an old, emaciated sloth bear stepped into the Bannerghatta Bear Rescue Centre (BBRC) in Karnataka, in hope for a better life. This sloth bear had endured a past of being a ‘dancing’ bear, and was handed over to Wildlife SOS by her Kalandar owner to sustain her well-being. Established 18 years ago, BBRC has been instrumental in providing long-term care to sloth bears that have faced traumatic situations. The centre has rehabilitated more than 60 rescued sloth bears, one of which is Chitra. 

In the first few days of her arrival, Chitra was very cautious of her surroundings. She had been unfamiliar with any kind of human kindness. Our team noticed Chitra displaying stereotypic behaviour, as she swayed her head for long durations. However, help and support given by her caregiver, along with the dedicated supervision of the veterinary team, encouraged Chitra to shed her timidity, and gain a sense of trust in them. 

Hammocks for Chitra are placed at a lower height to provide her comfort as she climbs on it. [Picture (c) Wildlife SOS/ Lenu Kannan] 

Chitra soon began to explore her enclosure with curiosity, and showed great interest in the various enrichments that were created for her. She also became more comfortable with her gentle caregiver. Gradually, the sloth bear emerged out of her shell, and is now known to be a confident bear.

Chitra continues to show high interest in engaging with enrichments created for her. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/ Hemanta Bijoy Chakma]

Being over 20 years old, she constantly receives focussed geriatric care with affection at the centre. She can often be seen roaming around her field, analysing all the structural and food-based enrichments provided to her. She spends time on the hammocks installed, and engages with the honey-covered logs and enrichment balls. Honey is a tempting treat that she loves to lick off from these enrichments while playing with them. These enrichments keep Chitra highly engrossed and physically active.  

Chitra remains most occupied with the hanging ball enrichment present in her enclosure. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/ Lenu Kannan]

As Chitra has arthritis in her limbs, her hammocks and wooden platforms are placed closer to the ground so that she can climb on to them with ease. Her natural instincts kick in as she digs her long claws in the mud for hours to scoop out small bugs and insects that she can munch on. After immersing herself with this activity, she can be seen scaling trees in the afternoons, and gracefully settling on lower branches. It is here that she sneaks in some time to relax while basking in the sun. 

By digging the mud with her long claws, Chitra makes sure to find abundant ants and insects to snack on. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/ Lenu Kannan]

Being an elder bear, Chitra receives specialised veterinary attention that helps her maintain her immunity against potential diseases. As part of her upkeep, she has undergone dental examinations to maintain her oral hygiene and prevent harm to her gums and enamels. She is also provided with multivitamins and health supplements to benefit her. 

Vivacious Chitra has been receiving love and care at BBRC for the last 15 years, yet her charming personality continues to fascinate our team members! [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/ Hemanta Bijoy Chakma] 

This year, Chitra completes 15 remarkable years of experiencing peace, love, and kindness at BBRC. To celebrate this momentous occasion, her caregiver recently added a twist of flavour to her enrichment ball, which was savoured with great delight by the bear. The ball was covered with peanut butter, and Chitra was quick to lap up the delicious spread!  

However, there are days when Chitra displays inconsistency in her appetite, a behaviour that is natural among older sloth bears. By observing and recording her intake, a well-balanced diet plan is curated for her. This is regularly updated by our team so that Chitra receives the nutrition she requires. Chitra’s caregiver ensures that a healthy amount of fresh fruit is provided to her when she doesn’t finish her meal of porridge. However, during the months of winter, the addition of jaggery to a small portion of hot porridge guarantees Chitra’s desire to relish the dish! Jaggery is also an ingredient that provides heat to the body, helping Chitra fight the nippy weather. 

Watching Chitra conduct herself with an elegant liveliness each day continues to overwhelm her caregiver and the team at BBRC. You too can contribute towards Chitra’s welfare by donating to her care! 

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