MAIN STORY: Meet Nana, Thimphu’s favourite up and coming star. She wears a black coat with pale yellow crescent on the chest, always. She weighs 47 kilograms. Already the celebrity is tired of being on the limelight.
This shy eleven-year-old Himalayan Black Bear, the new sweetheart at Wildlife Rescue and Animal Health Centre in Taba, has her back turned to visitors today. From outside the metal cage, one can see that she is sad.
It was at the peak of summer when the bears decided to come down from the mountains where the food had become scarce. As she looked miles down from the vantage point, Nana saw the Haa chhu shimmering in the afternoon light. The river cut through two sparsely populated villages.
In the village, Nana got into an empty house. There were many things in the house that she could eat – maize, vegetables and fruits. But Nana went for cattle and, like a pro, she took them one by one. Soon, however, the villagers were alarmed and started hunting the bears. But Nana had acquired the skills to get away easily.
The villagers alerted the Wildlife Conservation Division (WCD) and animal health officials. Nana had been in the village for almost a year, killing 13 lactating cattle in all.
A team from WCD’s wildlife rescue and animal health section reached Sama gewog in April this year, to hunt the bears. They got to their feet right after they got the information that bears were attacking animals in the village.
“We stayed there for one month because if we went to one valley, the bear would go to the opposite valley. The chase went on for a month,” said Kuenzang Gyaltshen, head of the team. “It took us time to catch one with a snare.”
That was when Nana lost her right wrist. Vet doctors were informed immediately. Nana was tranquilised and her wrist treated.
She was then taken to Taba on May 18 where she has been for the last three months.
Nana will remain in captivity in Taba because she won’t survive in the wild. She would not be able to hunt anymore and might begin attacking cattle again. But Nana is not alone at the centre. There are five other Himalayan black bears giving her company yet.
The bears are given Karma Feed with which are mixed with vegetables, fruits, grams and wheat. They are fed twice a day.
The Wildlife Rescue and Animal Health Centre in Taba gets at least 60 rescued wild animals every year. Animals are treated and then freed in the forests far away from human settlement. Last year, the centre treated 62 wild animals. Of the total, there were 12 Himalayan Black Bears. This year, 18 bears were brought to the centre.
Another Himalayan Black Bear came to the centre from Haa after Nana. He was caught from Dorithasa and weighs 116 kilograms.
On the night of August 5, the bear has entered Ap Wangdi’s storeroom. He was found eating animal feed, rice, meat, and drinking cooking oil. Ap Wangdi blocked all the escape routes by locking all the doors and windows. He then informed the rescue team.
A senior forest ranger at the centre, Chencho Tshering, said the team had to bring the bear to the centre because the bear is old and cannot hunt in the wild. The bear has only a few teeth left. After tranquilising the bear, it was transferred in an excavator due to roadblock.
“The villagers and the rescue team successfully tranquilised the bear and loaded the bear in an excavator till Hegoten. After that, the bear was transferred to rescue ambulance,” Chencho Tshering said. “It was raining and the road were slippery.” It took the team gruelling nine hours to reach the centre in Taba.
Accompanying Nana and the old male bear is Khengpa Nado, a chubby and playful male cub. He is just one year old. People began called the cub Khengpa Nado because he was rescued from Zhemgang. Khengpa Nado was just two months old when he was caught roaming the streets of Zhemgang. He is an orphan. People rescued him and started to feed him bottled milk.
When the rescue team found Khengpa Nado, his left ear lid was severely infected. The cub’s ear lid had to be removed. He was then brought to the rehabilitation centre where the team continued feeding him bottled milk, vegetables and fruits.
Chencho Tshering said that Khengpa Nado’s food habit is different and he can’t survive in the wild alone because humans have been taking care of him all along. So, here at the centre will Khengpa Nado remain all his life, loved by humans.
Not all cubs that are rescued will be kept at the centre like Khengpa Nado. There are three cubs at the centre. But they will be released into the wild when they reach old enough. Two cubs, a male and a female, were rescued from Haa on May 24. Another male cub, which was barely two months, was rescued from Baylangdra in Wangduephodrang on June 5.
“Villagers have no choice but to set up snares to protect their livelihood and crops, which in turn injure these animals when they are trapped,” said Kuenzang Gyaltshen. “We want to recreate natural habitat for animals like Khengpa Nado and Nana after they are rescued.”
Kuenzang Gyaltshen: “At present, we are looking for a location where a rehabilitation centre like Taba will be set up for these animals. A more safer place will be provided for the animals that are rescued.”
Amenities such as fencing, separate enclosures, natural cave and a place for them to swim, among others, will be planned for animals that will be kept at centre for a long time.
By Thinley Zangmo