About the course
This course is supervised by UBC adjunct faculty Sara Dubois and the first international offering of Animal Biology Practicum (APBI 496) which has successfully placed students in hands-on learning experiences since 2014.
For one month, undergraduate students from the University of British Columbia will participate in an experiential learning practicum to gain experience working with wild animals rescued from illegal captivity, human exploitation and human wildlife conflict. The six credit course takes place in the rural communities surrounding Agra and Mathura, India, at Wildlife SOS sanctuary locations.
Students will apply knowledge from previous coursework to gain practical skills in this placement, which will assist toward informing careers in wildlife rehabilitation, veterinary medicine, wildlife conservation, conservation project management, human wildlife conflict mitigation, animal behaviour and welfare, geography, resource management, environmental studies, and global studies.
In this course, students will experience local culture and participate in general animal husbandry and facility operations, animal health and welfare management, and learn from professionals and collaboration with other students and sanctuary volunteers. The 6 credit practicum is graded based on the 4 weeks of experience plus a half-term progress report, 5,000 word final report and an applied communications piece such as a poster, brochure, video, webpage, manual etc. that can be used by Wildlife SOS.
About the experience
Wildlife SOS, a non-profit conservation organization established in 1995 by founders Kartick Satyanarayan and Geeta Seshamani with a vision to make lasting change to protect and conserve India's biodiversity, wildlife wealth, natural heritage and forests by working in partnership with indigenous communities and Governments. The organization has today, evolved into the largest wildlife conservation organization in South Asia with nearly 50 conservation, research, livelihood, women empowerment and conflict mitigation projects across India aimed at protecting and conserving wildlife, habitat conservation, biodiversity research, developing alternative and sustainable livelihoods for poacher communities.
The practicum work involved is very physical and students will need to be in excellent health plus have numerous vaccines before departure. Activities include general animal husbandry (food prep, feeding, cleaning) and facility operations (cleaning, maintenance); animal health and welfare management (enrichment, behaviour monitoring, supporting caretakers and vets); learning from professionals and collaboration with other practicum students and volunteers; interacting with the public and Wildlife SOS staff in various departments. Direct physical contact with sanctuary wild animals is very limited for personal safety reasons.
Agra Bear Rescue Facility (ABRF), Agra, Uttar Pradesh
~3.5 hours drive from New Delhi
The Agra Bear Rescue Facility is the largest Bear Rescue and Rehabilitation Facility in the world for sloth bears. It was established in 1999 by Wildlife SOS in collaboration with the State Forest Department and currently houses around 200 sloth bears in large forested enclosures with ponds. The habitat protection work of Wildlife SOS has turned this 160 acre refuge into a sanctuary for other species of wildlife as well. Striped hyenas, Hog deer, pangolin, hedgehogs, porcupine, spotted deer, monitor lizards, nilgai & black buck antelope, peacocks, francolin, pelicans and a myriad of native & migratory birds are a part of the ecological system here.
The sloth bears have access to large socialization enclosures where the behaviour and personality of each bear is closely monitored by the Wildlife SOS team of veterinary doctors, animal caretakers and biologists. Based on each bear’s personality, he/she is matched to a compatible group and then moved to a larger free-range area. Wildlife SOS has full-time wildlife veterinary officers, wildlife biologists and a dedicated team of bear keepers to care for the rescued bears. The bear hospital is equipped with a laboratory in addition to essential equipment like digital x-ray, ultrasound, dental suite, operation theater and other equipment needed to meet any bear care need that may arise. A special cub weaning area of the bear sanctuary is dedicated to foster baby bears rescued from poachers as the cubs require a lot of careful attention during the early months.
Elephant Conservation & Care Centre (ECCC), Mathura, Uttar Pradesh
~3.5 hours from Delhi, 15 mins from ABRF
The Elephant Conservation and Care Centre is focused on rescue and rehabilitation of elephants in distress. The long-term vision of this center is to bring an end to the poaching of elephant calves from the wild to fuel the captive elephant industry in India that depends on irresponsible tourism. To achieve this, Wildlife SOS has adopted multiple strategies to educate tourists and travel operators about responsible tourism, offer conservation educational tours at ECCC to sensitize and educate volunteers and assist law enforcement authorities to implement the law. Every elephant housed at the ECCC has a unique story and past of the situation they’ve had to be rescued from by Wildlife SOS. Here, several elephants that have been poached, exploited by unscrupulous people commercially for profit and abused are under rehabilitation and recuperation, living out their retirement years in peace and safety. No longer forced to bear heavy loads, or walk on hot pavement, these majestic creatures are finally able to spend their days happily, with frequent baths, a nutritious diet, and veterinary care of international standards.
The Elephant Conservation and Care Center currently houses more than 20 elephants. The center is full of natural vegetation with open fields around for their daily walks and several trees available to scratch themselves, thus making it closest to the natural habitat of the elephants. Free access to pools are provided to elephants for them to bath and play in the water, at will. A 5 min drive away is the new Elephant Hospital equipped with the latest in veterinary technology and provides additional enclosure facilities, access to the river and “Field of Dreams” was recently opened and will increase elephant capacity at this site.
Volunteer Housing Unit
Capacity: 36 to 40 persons; other volunteers and groups often stay 4-7 days in shared housing facilities
15 mins drive from Agra Bear Rescue Facility; all students and volunteers will be picked up and dropped off from this location daily (Mon-Sat working days, Sun off)
Located inside a gated community with 24 hour security, three guest houses with 13 separate bedrooms and one dormitory; staff on-site 24 hours
WIFI enabled, water purifier system for drinking water, power backup, access to common lawns, dining halls, kitchens and roof top area, shared laundry facilities with one washing machine
Each room has ceiling fan, air cooler, hot water shower, western toilet, electric points for charging devices. Rooms are shared - some have 2-3 person capacity, others sleep 4 persons in bunks, dormitory sleeps 5-6
Two chefs who provide basic vegetarian breakfast & hot cooked dinner, hot cooked vegetarian lunch in the field at ECCC or ABRF
As there are no local stores nearby, all medical, personal health, and specialty nutritional requirements must be packed for entire month stay
- Toilets are all western and shower facilities with hot water is available. Electricity supply can be erratic in summer months but solar and power backup systems (battery & generator) are there for emergency use.