Article and photos provided by Kristina Madarang Stahl
The first time I made contact with a bear, I was hand-feeding 525 milligrams of Trocoxil disguised in a honey-soaked wad of bread to Stivi, the 600-pound one-eyed Eurasian brown bear. This now numbers among my duties as bear biologist at Bear Sanctuary Prishtina – one of 13 sanctuaries established by Four Paws International.
Other responsibilities include forays into anesthetized rectums for temperature readings, coaxing a notoriously recalcitrant female close enough to dart her with a rabies vaccine, training bears to present paws and teeth for medical exams, and coming up with novel enrichment items to challenge their impressive cognitive abilities. I’m also conducting a research study in which I monitor activity budgets and plan interventions for pacing or other behavioral stereotypes in the bears who shouldered the darkest histories before their arriving in this 16-hectare oasis.
When I’m not at the Sanctuary, I’m the philanthropy officer for The Bear Care Group – an organization that brings together global bear practitioners (keepers, researchers, veterinarians, consultants, and conservationists) at our annual About Bear Care Conference. I garner sponsorships in support of the conferences and run the gala silent auction.
Bear Sanctuary Prishtina has a communications officer, but we face a disproportionate challenge to lead Kosovo’s paradigm shift from a culture of littering, pollution, and habitat degradation to environmental stewardship and valuing animal welfare. Meanwhile, The Bear Care Group is composed of over 2,000 members led and staffed by an eight-person volunteer board. To fulfill our mission of sharing best practices in bear care, we need robust communications. The Nicholas School’s Environmental Communications program is directly helping me accomplish what seemed like insurmountable goals for thousands of people and innumerable bears!
Kristina Madarang Stahl works for Bear Sanctuary Prishtina as a biologist, grant writer, and editor. She is a current student in the Nicholas School’s Environmental Communications Certificate program.