A few years ago, I consulted South Asia’s acclaimed wild animal rescue organization—Wildlife SOS. Based out of their Agra sloth bear sanctuary in close proximity to the Taj Mahal, I worked on an eclectic selection of projects as the organization’s first Westerner-in-Residence.
The internationally recognized animal nonprofit manages several large sanctuaries providing refuge for hundreds of sloth bears, Asiatic black bears, big cats, elephants and other charismatic species found on the Indian Subcontinent.
The Agra facility is home to hundreds of sloth bears rescued off the streets after being poached as cubs and forced to perform as attractions for tourists at the mercy of some local tribal societies. Much like street elephants have been forced to work or entertain for centuries, these bears represent a species exploited by indigenous cultures. Thanks to Wildlife SOS capacity building programs, local people with limited vocational skills and opportunity have been empowered through training, which confers alternative animal-friendly livelihoods.
In 2013, I was honored to be awarded grant funding on behalf of Wildlife SOS from San Diego Zoo Global to initiate this momentous investigation ultimately aimed at mitigating human-bear conflict, through telemetric study.