Kat's second blog post from Bannerghatta
Working in the national park is ideal for seeing the animals that are indigenous to India. In the week or so I've been here, in addition to the elephant that we spotted on my first day, I've now also seen a family of wild boar (piglets included), lots of different birds, deer, hares, a macaque monkey and several mongooses.
Speaking of elephants, the Wildlife SOS team was sent to rescue one on Sunday: apparently it had wandered near to a village and the locals all went to look at it, but it became frightened and charged, tragically killing a small boy. Wildlife SOS was called in to drive the elephant away from the village - hopefully the elephant was sufficiently frightened by the experience that it won't go back.
There's still a lot to get used to here: the culture is just so different to the UK and we spend a lot of time discussing the differences between our countries. Particularly the food - it is all very tasty, but I think I normally have curry about once every six months at home!
During the week, the Wildlife SOS team was called to another rescue - this time a leopard caught in a snare. As they were about to dart it in order to cut it free and give it a general health check, it jumped and managed to free itself. As long as his paw isn't too badly injured he should be fine, which is a relief. They even brought the snare back to the centre, complete with tufts of leopard fur...
During the week, we had an escapee bear. The cheeky thing had managed to dig a huge hole, find a gap in the massive stone wall and squeeze himself out. He knew he'd done something bad though: as the workers approached him, he sheepishly ran back in with a guilty look. This is currently being resolved to ensure he doesn't escape again!
For my study, I have been asked to find out which food enrichment item the bears prefer: so we are giving the bears six food items (watermelon, coconut, ground nuts, Pedigree biscuits, dates and monin [syrup] - there are others that they provide, based on the season and what is available for purchasing, but these six are most regularly used and readily available) in their "socialising enclosure" to forage for. I am noting down the order in which they find them and how long they spend with each item.It's really interesting to watch them pop open a watermelon so easily and slurp out the insides within seconds - you can see with those claws and that strength why an enraged bear is so dangerous!
There's one bear in particular, called Madhan, who loves coconut - for the last few days, all he has eaten is the coconut. As this research is being repeated every day, the bears are starting to learn that the six items are available but they only have a certain time limit, so they will ignore less preferred items that they have found in order to track down their favoured ones (returning to the skipped ones only once all their preferred ones have been found and eaten.) Madhan, in particular, will gloss over all the other items in order to find the coconut and he will then spend up to half an hour scraping every last piece out with his claws.
It seems to be going quite well so far. More news and results next week once I have finished...