The caregivers at all the Wildlife SOS Centers are extremely hard-working, dedicated and passionate in their work with the animals. They form the backbone of our organisation who are responsible for the daily well-being of the animals. One such member of the bear care staff is Murari Lal who, for the last eleven years, has been caring for fifteen bears at the Agra Bear Rescue Facility.
It is no easy task for Murari to ensure that the bears are happy, healthy and that all their needs are being met. In a casual conversation, Murari spoke about his passion for his job and the love he has for all the bears under his care.
How did you start working with Wildlife SOS?
My family owns some farms near the Agra Bear Rescue Facility so I would visit often to look at the bears. I love animals and used to look after the buffaloes on my family farm before joining Wildlife SOS. During one of my visits to the Center, I learnt that Wildlife SOS had a vacancy for a Bear caregiver and I eagerly signed up for the job.
What do you love the most about your work?
I love animals and I always knew that I wanted to work with them. This opportunity was perfect and I gladly took it up. This was my first job and I haven’t looked back! My day revolves around the bears and I spend each day feeding them, taking care of them and providing them with lots of enrichment activities.
What is a typical workday for you?
The first thing that I do every morning is to check on the bears and ensure they are all well. I then move on to one of the most important tasks of the day – cooking for and feeding the hungry bears. It is our responsibility to make sure that the food is properly and hygienically cooked and that the individualised needs of each bear is met, as per the directions of the vets. I add a generous helping of dates and honey to the bowls of porridge before serving it to the bears.
The bears are quick to swarm around me as they smell the delicious food coming their way. While the bears are occupied with their morning meal, I move on to cleaning the enclosure, the pool and the dens. It is not long before all the bears finish their food and switch their attention to the enrichments for some play time. I ensure that all the enrichments are in order and repair any structural enrichments that may be broken. I also prepare the food enrichments and fill them up with dates, coconuts, honey and all the treats which are enjoyed by all the bears.
Another part of my job involves the upkeep and maintenance of the enclosures. I do everything that may be necessary to ensure that the enclosures and dens are in perfect condition, including painting, occasional fence maintenance, weeding etc.
You have been working on positive conditioning training with the bears. Can you tell us about it?
Yes, under the guidance of the veterinary team here at the Agra Bear Rescue Facility, I have been actively involved with positive conditioning training of the bears under my care. Positive conditioning helps the bears in getting accustomed to the vets and the treatments they provide or the tests they conduct. I have to maintain a steady supply of honey while the vets conduct any routine examinations or collect samples from the bears. The treats ensure that the bears are distracted while the tests and treatments are conducted and they come to look at the whole procedure as positive. I am extremely proud of the progress the bears have made and I am happy to report that all the bears now cooperate with the vets, making their treatment easy and stress-free.
Which bear is your favourite?
It is difficult to choose one! Suraj, Kandi, Truffles, Polly, all are close to my heart. However, if I did have to choose one, it would be Polly because she is extremely playful, active and always up to some mischief!
Do you have a message for the readers?
I joined Wildlife SOS as a young man with a love for animals. Over the years the bears have become an integral part of my life. I feel sad knowing that people hurt these animals in the past and that is extremely wrong. Everyone must do good work and be compassionate towards our fellow animals.