Get to know Rakesh Kumar: The Bear Keeper of the Month

June 26, 2019 | By wildlife@dmin

Rakesh Kumar has been working with Wildlife SOS at the Agra Bear Rescue Facility, for almost 12-years now. He’s an animal lover and is highly compassionate about wildlife. Having joined in 2007, he has ever since loved working with sloth bears and is grateful to Wildlife SOS for giving him this golden opportunity.

  • How did you start working with Wildlife SOS?

Back in 2007, when I first heard about the Agra Bear Rescue Facility, I instantly seized the chance to work with sloth bears and learn more about caring for them.

It was absolutely intriguing working with sloth bears and their behaviors amused me. Owing to my interest, I soon was made a keeper at the Agra Bear Rescue Facility.

  • What is a typical workday for you?

My entire day revolves around ensuring that the bears under my care are in good health. As soon as I reach in the morning, I first conduct a visual examination to make sure they are behaving naturally. In case I figure something unusual about their behavior, I reach out to the veterinary staff to intervene.

Following which, I clean the pen with water and disinfectant, once the surface dries out, I spread out bowls before the feeding time.  In some situations, where the bear is under a routine medication, I ensure the medicine is added to the porridge to make it easy for the bear to consume it.

Once the food is served, I focus on cleaning the field which includes surfacing and leveling the dug-up pits, ridding the field of any broken twigs and branches and ensuring that all the available structural enrichments like the hammocks are in place.

Once the bears are fed and are napping, I clean the area outside the enclosure. The drainage pipes that run outside the bear enclosure are maintained regularly to get rid of dried leaves and evade clogging.

  • What is the best part about your job?

I absolutely look forward to feeding the bears, watching them fill with joy at the sight of their favorite honey-laced porridge being served is so heartwarming. Funnily, they sometimes even jump while the food is being served.  It is so satisfying to know they are happy under my care.
Additionally, what I enjoy most about my work is to be able to observe the bears in their most natural being. They would sometimes be digging up pits or playing with the enrichments, which is a clear reflection of their mental well-being.  This has also helped me in understanding the different temperaments of each bear.

Rakesh Singh, the bear keeper of the month cutting seasonal fruits for the bears.
  • What is the most difficult part of your job?

While I enjoy all the work that we do at the rescue center, it is sometimes challenging to manage a bear with temperament issues. We try to maintain extra caution in order to ensure the safety of both the staff and the bear.

  • Why do you enjoy working with sloth bears?

I am very compassionate about all animals, the fact that they cannot express themselves like humans, makes me want to care for them.  I also have hand-reared cattle at home, when I first started working as a Bear keeper, I started liking my work and over time have developed a bond with the bears I look after.

In my younger days, I have seen bears dancing on the streets of my village by their kalandar masters. It fills my heart with happiness and gratitude to be able to serve them now and help them heal emotionally.

  • Who is your favorite bear?

Aleem and Ansar are my two favorite bears and I feel like we share a deep bond. They would never display any discomfort towards me and at are ease in my presence. Aleem of the two is very cheerful and I love to watch him play in his enclosure.

Bear keeper Rakesh, filling the bamboo logs with honey.
  • What do you do besides work?

Once I am done with my daily chores at the center, I go back to my wife and children. I like to spend time with them by either playing with my kids or helping them study. I also like to help my wife with the house chores.

Before being married, I used to partake in agricultural work with family, following my work hours at the Agra Bear Rescue Facility.

  • What has been your fondest memory working with Wildlife SOS?

It has been over 12 years since I first joined Wildlife SOS. Over the years I have grown fonder of the staff and bears at ABRF. There are plenty of good memories that I share with other keepers and my fondest one is of the days when I was given a chance to observe the veterinary operations. It helped me learn so much and was quite thrilling to watch the veterinary experts at work.

  • How many cubs have you hand reared?

I have mostly being looking after adult bears. I have hand-reared only one bear cub in my tenure at ABRF.

Rakesh Kumar, the bear keeper serving portions of watermelons.
  • Apart from bears, have you taken care of any other animals?

At home I have cattle that I look after and have hand-reared, my family takes care of cows, buffaloes and a calf. I feel like they are also part of my family and it gives me immense pleasure to be able to look after them.

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