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13 May, 2010

A simple idea rescues a sloth bear mother and her cubs from a dry well

The rich wildlife of Madhugiri

Tumkur District's Madhugiri taluk, in south-eastern Karnataka, is of great interest to wildlife lovers. The habitats here range from dry deciduous forests in Madhugiri State Forest to the famous grasslands of Jayamangali Conservation Reserve near Maidanahalli village, which has one of Karnataka's healthiest single population of blackbuck. The hills to the south of and west of Madhugiri town are well-known for their sloth bears. For the past few years, WANC is working to bring these reserve and revenue forests along with those around Channarayana Durga hill, under the umbrella of a Conservation Reserve or Wildlife Sanctuary.

We rushed to the spot and it was almost 8.00 PM. We reached a well that was completely dry and without fencing. We saw three sloth bears - one adult female and two baby bears. The animals looked a little dehydrated and tired. It is peak summer in this part of the world and the days are currently hot, reaching as high as 38 degrees centigrade. We guessed they might have fallen inside the previous day night. We carefully inserted two buckets filled with water into the well. Initially they were not responding. A few minutes later the mother walked up to the bucket and drank from it. The babies soon joined. They consumed nearly three buckets of water, after which they looked a little healthy.

Residents of the village were kind enough to offer these animals jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus). Jackfruit is one of the favourite foods of sloth bears. These fruits ripen annually in later winter - early summer, which often brings these animals to trees in farmlands. The sloth bears started eating the jackfruit without worry.

Some of the smartest ideas are often the simplest

We all, including Mr Harish, RFO, Madhugiri territorial range and Shankarappa, Forester, Madhugiri section, wondered how to bring these bears out from the well. We had intense discussions. We then consulted experts from Bangalore, but they in turn informed it would take 4 hours for them to reach the place. That would have been too late in the night. We hit upon a simple idea which might sound very silly to some. Why couldn't we lower local bamboo ladders into the well and see if the bears would walk out of this well? As it would take 4 hours for the experts from Bangalore to be here, we decided to insert the ladders. If the animal could come out - well and good. If not, the experts could tranquillize them. We cleared the people around the place and went to sleep.

When the experts reached at 3 AM we walked together to the well. We were thrilled to find all the three bears had disappeared into the dark night. Hurray! The bears had successfully climbed the ladder and gone away, probably to their home - the forest. The entire operation ended successfully with a very basic and simple yet successful idea. This is a good lesson learnt and we shall repeat this in the future. We suggest others try this too...

As told by TVN Murthy