ADVANCING BEAR CARE 2018
The Bear Care Group was delighted to partner with Wildlife SOS to bring the Advancing Bear Care 2018 – India workshop to Agra, India on December 3 – 6. We would like to thank them for their hard work and dedication in planning and executing logistical details that made this workshop such a success.
Bears living in wild environments express daily and seasonal routines as dictated by their genetic programming. Captive bears experience the same drives and will set up similar living routines when given the internal and external environment to do so. The ability to express species-specific behaviors reduces stressors inherent in captive living and promotes physical and mental health. At this dynamic bear husbandry workshop, we presented the principles of behavior-based bear husbandry, environmental enrichment, operant conditioning, and veterinary care. We further explored wild bear behavior, enclosure design and furnishing, enrichment programming, bear nutrition and diet, daily and seasonal husbandry routines, integration and social groupings, operant conditioning to promote husbandry and veterinary care, and bear welfare practices. Bear conservation in India was also discussed including ways captive facilities can participate in wild conservation efforts.
Indian delegates were well-represented with attendance from 11 different zoos (25 zookeepers), seven different universities, and two organizations. We also had international delegates from seven different countries including Vietnam, China, Australia, England, Switzerland, Germany, and the USA, from organizations as varied as zoos, sanctuaries, and animal welfare groups. We thank everyone for participating by sharing your knowledge and challenges, all with the aim of helping the bears in your charge back home. It was an incredible time of networking and lending support between like-minded bear caregivers.
THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSORS
Without sponsors an educational event such as this could not take place. We wish to thank WAZA for their generous support of our workshop this year and for helping us to reach our mission of bringing this educational workshop to India. We also wish to thank Hauser Bears for their steadfast support of the Bear Care Group’s educational programs and projects, including the Else Poulsen Memorial Grant which assisted 25 local zookeepers in attending this workshop. We wish to thank Polar Bears International for their continued, generous support of our workshops and conferences. A huge thank you to both the Winton Foundation for the Welfare of Bears and to the AZA Bear Taxon Advisory Group for supporting the enrichment practicum at this workshop by funding all of the materials used by the delegates to build enrichment at the Agra Bear Rescue Facility; the delegates and the bears both benefitted from this support. We very much appreciate the donation of T-shirts printed with the workshop logo by UCLA, and we thank the staff of the GenX Agra Hotel for their hospitality and customer service.
THANK YOU TO OUR WONDERFUL VOLUNTEERS
The Advancing Bear Care conferences and workshops are powered entirely by volunteers. Prior to the workshop, volunteers worked tirelessly across borders and oceans to put together a workshop that provided a format for learning, information sharing, and networking to further captive bear care globally. We wish to thank and highlight the tremendous efforts by Kartick Satyanarayan (Co-Founder & CEO), Geeta Seshamani (Co-Founders & Secretary), Shirina Sawhney (PR & Events Officer), and Wasim Akram (Manager – Special Projects) of Wildlife SOS for their leadership and tireless effort in planning the workshop. We also wish to recognize the special efforts of Baiju Raj, Joohi Rai, Palak Jaggi, Fatima Zaman, Shivalika Swar, Manoj Chaurasia, Shivam Rai, Mradul Pathak, Gargi Sharma, Dr. Arun A Sha, Dr. Ilayaraja, Dr. Yaduraj, Dr. Pritim and others behind the scenes for their long hours of work translating the presentations and abstracts, assisting with logistical planning for the workshop, working with the hotel, planning the tours and practicums at the Agra Bear Rescue Center, and organizing the post-workshop trips, among other tasks.
Our speakers provided years of education and practical experience in their programs and workshops. Thank you to all for their hard work and dedication. We particularly wish to thank our keynote speakers, Kartick Satyanarayan (Co-Founder & CEO of Wildlife SOS) and Dr. Brij Kishore Gupta (Evaluation and Monitoring Officer with the Central Zoo Authority, India), and our invited speakers, Dr. Dave Garshelis (Wildlife Research Scientist, MDNR, Co-Chair IUCN Bear Specialist Group & Co-Chair Asiatic Black Bear Expert Team) and Dr. Nishith Dharaiya (Associate Professor, Hemchandracharya Northern Gujarat Univesity & Co-Chair IUCN Sloth Bear Expert Team). From Wildlife SOS, we also wish to thank the following speakers: Dr. Ilayaraja, Dr. Arun, Ailaya Mir, Thomas Sharp, Dr. Pritim, and Baiju Raj. From the Bear Care Group, we wish to thank the following speakers and workshop moderators: Jason Pratte, Dr. Heather Bacon, Annemarie Weegenaar, Angela Gibson, and Dr. Mindy Babitz.
Two afternoons consisted of break-out discussion group workshops where delegates could present real-life bear care problems and possible solutions were discussed as they related to behavior-based husbandry and enrichment, operant conditioning, or veterinary care and welfare. Focus was placed on the problem-solving method of reviewing natural history, individual history and current conditions to formulate solutions for the issues discussed.
Poster presentations were available throughout the conference and contributing organizations included the Sumatran Sun Bear Team (AU), Bears in Mind (NL), Allwetterzoo Munster (DE), Animals Asia (VN), Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (IN), Wildlife SOS (IN), PETA Foundation (USA), and Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (USA). Topics included the European Endangered Species Program for sloth bears, improving captive bear welfare, capacity building to improve welfare standards, intestinal microbiota in sloth bears, collaboration between PETA and accredited zoo experts, educating and inspiring zoo guests, and conservation and rescue of sun bears in Sumatra.
AGRA BEAR RESCUE FACILITY ENRICHMENT AND TRAINING PRACTICUMS
On Thursday, December 6, Wildlife SOS graciously hosted our delegates who spent the day at their Agra Bear Rescue Facility (ABRF) inside the Soor Sarovar Bird Sanctuary. Delegates had the opportunity to view the beautiful rescue center and learn about the bears (many from the ‘dancing bear’ trade) that now call this center their home. ABRF is currently home to almost 200 sloth bears living in large forested enclosures. Delegates rolled up their sleeves and built numerous enrichment items using bamboo and jute bags during the enrichment practicum, which were then provided to the bears at the end of the day so delegates could observe how the enrichment was used. They also attended bear training and veterinary assessment demonstrations, observing the importance of team work between keepers and veterinarians to reduce the stressors inherent in captive living for bears.
OVERALL WORKSHOP ASSESSMENT
We feel this workshop was successful in introducing delegates to the basic principles of behavior-based bear husbandry, environmental enrichment, operant conditioning, and veterinary care. In particular, delegates walked away not only having gained useful knowledge on these topics, but also having learned a valuable problem-solving & brainstorming method that will help them continue to brainstorm new ideas for improving husbandry and solving issues with the bears under their care.