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Published: April 16th 2012
After ten hours sleep in a comfortable bed I awoke feeling refreshed a good hour before breakfast, both Ruth and I are starving as we had not eaten since 3pm yesterday. Again I enjoyed the buffet breakfast eating a fair bit of the western foods but I also tried all the Indian selections as well although I wasn’t overly impressed by any of them, the omelette rocked though. I then went to the gym for a work out, the equipment was not the best but I made do, the treadmill belt was loose and particularly dangerous. I then returned to our room for a shower and to pack my bag, Emma Gatehouse the Free the Bears coordinator would be arriving at 11am to pick us up.
When 11am came we met Joanne another volunteer from South Australia who was also staying at our hotel and three English ladies, I lugged our packs out to the vehicles parked in the street and we headed off to another hotel to pick up another Australian couple from Sydney. Bannerghatta is only about twenty five kilometres south of Bangalore but the traffic in India is incredibly dense so it took quite some time to
get to the super market on the edge of the city, still being new to India even the traffic jams are exotic and interesting.
It was difficult at the shop, we didn’t really know what our circumstances would be, in Cambodia we knew we had a fridge and that we could get certain things in the local village, here we had no idea, so we settled for crisps, biscuits, juice, cereal and long life milk, but it still took much longer than it should have to complete such a simple task. From here the scenery was not very pleasant the roads were lined with garbage; people here do not seem to understand the consequences of their actions or have any kind of social conscience where pollution is concerned.
Eventually we pulled up at the entrance to Bannerghatta National Park and were both surprised to see the amount of filth littering the area and the huge mass of humanity surging this way and that. There was even a “crusty” old Ferris wheel as Ruth described it in nearby paddock. Here we transferred to a creaky old bus for the trip deeper into the park to our accommodation at the
Jungle Lodge, a walled tented community consisting of eight tents with attached ensuites; we were privileged to get the one with a mural on the back wall. We found a number of species of animals and birds at the campsite including Chital (Spotted) Deer, Squirrels and Long Tailed Rhesus Macaque who are already looking for ways into the tents, I sat happily snapping shots on our porch until we went to lunch.
We met Kartik one of the driving forces behind Wildlife SOS India after lunch, he is an amazing man who has a habit of putting himself in harm’s way to prevent the poaching of Indian wildlife and to stop smuggling rings. Kartik had a Russell Viper in a coke bottle in his backpack which he had rescued from somewhere and was planning to release in the Park; this species of snake is very pretty with a figure eight marking on its body but also extremely venomous. Still Kartik didn’t hesitate to extract it so we could have an unimpeded look.
Another volunteer arrived during lunch this one from Victoria, she is not very likable, she believes she is a genius and has an inflated opinion of
herself, where as the English girls who I wasn’t overly fond of in the beginning grew on me overtime she never did, I liked the three volunteers from Sydney as well and in particular the couple in their forties and of course the Adelaide girl. After dinner we went to the games room where we watched a documentary on the plight of the wild Tiger in India, it was terribly depressing.
The rest of the evening we just relaxed before going to dinner at 8.30pm, dinner is a variety of Indian dishes which I stoically ate and continued to do so for the week that I was there and later on my travels as there was often no alternative.
The next morning we rose at 6am to the roar of the lions in the distance and monkeys on our porch, we didn’t realise the hot water system was off so it was cold invigorating showers this morning. Our fellow volunteers were complaining about the cold night, I suppose we would also have felt the cold if we had left our tent flaps open all night as they did. Breakfast was great toast, eggs, cereal and some Indian selections
if only the English didn’t complain so much about the cold.
After breakfast we went to the conference room for our induction and information session regarding the history of the Sloth Bear program and how Wildlife SOS India had managed to remove all the dancing bears from Indian roadsides it was an amazing story. We then piled into vehicles for the bumpy ride out to the sanctuary and a guided tour of the facility lead by Doctor Arun , vet and sanctuary manager who showed us the surgery, enclosures and the kitchen before introducing us to some of the bears.
It was great to see the bears looking so healthy after many years of abuse and to see such large enclosures fading back into the scrubby forest, we have already found a favourite his name is Bobby and he seems to have taken a real liking to us as well, he runs over whenever he sees us and tries to climb up out of the concrete moat. After visiting the three adorable cubs we piled into the old bus and visited the wild area where we watched the bears come running from every direction as the keepers throw
fruit to them from the back of their utes, I was less than happy because I had a crap seat and couldn’t get any good photographs, still it was funny watching a half dozen bears running down the road after the vehicle.
After lunch Ruth and I went and worked in the nursery doing gardening chores unfortunately the tools they have here are either inadequate or broken so it took a long time to get anything done, I wish I had known this beforehand as I would have bought some tools in Bangalore before we arrived. I must admit though that having Bobby’s enclosure next to us was a bit of distraction I would much rather watch him play than clean up dead leaves. A few hours later we were called down to see the cubs get the treat balls that we had lugged all the way from Australia, after putting treats in the balls they were thrown to the cubs who excitedly rolled them around trying to work out how to get the treats out, we watched them play for thirty minutes or so which was a highlight of the day.
The sanctuary also has a couple
of tigers, one of which has only three legs, as one was lost in a snare, he despises humans (how can anyone blame him) and we were warned not to approach his enclosure. Ruth and I saw him today and he looks magnificent, at 5pm we headed back to the camp for the evening.
I have a bit of a friendship building with the kitchen staff, they don’t really understand me or me them but we joke about the cricket when I visit in the mornings to collect the milk and in the afternoons when I come for the cold soft drinks they have stored for me in their fridge, on the way over this morning Ruth and I stopped to look at Jimmi the chital and some of the guys brought some beans out so Ruth could feed her.
When we arrived at the sanctuary we split into two groups for a litter detail to clean up the rubbish that Indian’s throw out their vehicle windows, it wasn’t as bad as it sounds the weather is lovely and the three kilometre walk was good exercise. Along the way we saw sign of wild elephant and sloth bear
and spotted a large mongoose, before meeting up with the other group at the halfway point where we clambered into the back of the utilities for the trip back to the sanctuary. On arrival we were all allocated jobs, ours didn’t really materialise so Ruth and I ended up being driven around all over the place and did nothing really until late in the morning when we got to place fruit in trees and under rocks and logs for the bears to find.
When we arrived back at the sanctuary after lunch (more Indian which Ruth eats in copious amounts) we were supposed to plant trees but with all the general confusion that takes place when Indians try to do anything we just sat near Bobby’s enclosure and watched him make a nest in the dirty with backside. Nadi one of the Indian volunteers returned some twenty minutes later and then we were on our way to one of the den’s where we helped feed the bears with a concoction that looks like a chocolate milkshake in big metal pans, it is made up of eggs, bran flour and water and the bears suction it up like a vacuum
cleaner. Ruth and I finished washing all the pans then headed back to the main area as today they were going to through the treat balls to some of the adult bears.
We returned to the camp around 5pm to discover that some monkeys had ripped a hole in the side of our tent, up ended our bin and generally made a mess, fortunately we had locked up everything so no harm done and the camp staff patched up the hole. Later we watched a PowerPoint presentation of the Cambodian Sanctuary and all the great things they have accomplished since we were there in 2009 finishing the day with some smuggled in beers.
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