BEAR SANCTUARY Müritz provides a species-appropriate home to bears that cannot be returned to the wild. To find out more about the daily work at the sanctuary we interviewed Animal Caretaker Bianca Wöhlke, who has been part of the FOUR PAWS family for four years. In this interview, Bianca gives us an exclusive take behind the scenes!
Can you describe an average day at work?
First thing in the morning we prepare the medications for the bears, which can be pills against possible pain, or medications that support the bears' musculoskeletal system. The daily schedule then includes feeding the bears and cleaning their enclosures. This takes up a large part of the morning work and lasts until about 1pm. I usually have lunch with my colleagues, which is very nice. We get to talk about the work that needs to be done in the next few days. And at the same time, I can enjoy a delicious lunch that my colleagues have freshly cooked in our organic bistro. In the afternoon, the feed is prepared for the next day. In the summer season, there is an additional second feeding for all bears on the program. And depending on what's coming up and time, there's a lot for me to do as an animal caretaker, such as bear training, keeping the training log, cleaning the enclosures, cleaning the ponds in the enclosures, updating the feeding logs, or even ordering the bear food from the suppliers.
How many animals live in the sanctuary?
Currently there are 14 brown bears living here. (04/2022)
What is the most unusual experience you have had while working at the BEAR SANCUARY Müritz?
Training with the bears is an unusual and fascinating experience for me. After all, as animal caretaker we get pretty close to the large and potentially dangerous animals. I’m impressed every time by the big, strong bears that listen to me during training. I give a command and they follow it. It's just fascinating every time. Balou, our biggest bear, opens his mouth on my command – that was a special and unforgettable experience for me.
What is one thing that makes your job special?
Working with the sometimes very traumatized bears, who can finally live a good and species-appropriate life here in our sanctuary. It's a life's work that I love to do.
What was one of the most gratifying or memorable parts of your job?
Part of my job, after all, is learning more about bears, especially in their past, that leads to certain behaviors in the present. For example, during a study of Dushi here, we discovered that she carries projectile parts around in her body. This always brings home to me how horrible people can be to animals. And at the same time, it is beautiful for me to see how much people on the other side are able to stand up for animals and take care of them like we do in the sanctuary.
What is one of the most challenging aspects of working with animals / working with the sanctuary?
To put it tongue in cheek: that you don't adopt the bears' behaviors too much – namely, that you don't gain weight in the fall like the bears do, and then go into hibernation.
What did you do before you joined FOUR PAWS?
I worked at the Sirius Wild Animal Park in Brandenburg. Before that, I did my education as an animal caretaker at the Ueckermünde Zoo on the Szczecin Lagoon.
What is one of your favorite things about working in the BEAR SANCTUARY Müritz?
The bear training, that fascinates me very much and gives me a lot of joy. The animal training is something special.
Do you have a favorite animal in the sanctuary? If so, why?
This is the hardest question of all. I don't have one favorite bear, I love all of our 14 bears with their often so different characteristics and characters.
How has your work in the BEAR SANCTUARY Müritz changed your life and influenced your family / friends / community?
I have chosen my profession consciously, I love my job, I grew up with animals from an early age and I love to take care of them. Through my work in our BEAR SANCTUARY Müritz, my view of keeping conditions in other zoos and animal parks has changed: I see some things more skeptically now. My family now shares my fascination for bears. My mother loves our bear Luna and watches every video we post on our social media channels about our bears.
What do you like to do outside of work? What are you passionate about?
I am very attached to my family. I support my family very much, we have a small farm, there is a lot that comes up and every hand, including mine, is needed. We are self-sufficient. I think that's great, and I like to work there. Almost the whole year we can supply ourselves with the food we grow ourselves. Tomatoes from our own greenhouse taste completely different than from the store. And if you want to have vegetables and fruit from your own garden, you have to work for it – even when you've actually long since finished work or have a free weekend.
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