Bursa man taking care of bears for 15 years
İbrahim İbil, 53, has been working as a caretaker in a bear shelter for 15 years in the northwestern province of Bursa’s Karacabey district. Some of the bears he looks after are rescued “dancing bears.”
The Ovakorusu Bear Shelter, perched on a 10-hectare area, was established within the scope of a project called “Freedom for Bears” in 1996. It is now home to 81 bears.
The shelter’s aim is to give bears back their freedom.
Until the establishment of the shelter, they had been tortured to dance on the streets. But the bears are now being protected in the shelter, which is within the body of the Ovakorusu Celal Acar Wildlife Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Center.
In the shelter, İbil takes care of wounded bears and bear cubs that have lost their mothers.
İbil, married with three children, used to be a farmer and stockbreeder. His family were also farmers, which, he says, is why he loves animals.
He said the bears in the shelter look forward to see him every day.
Living in a house on the outskirts of a linden forest in the Boğazköy neighborhood, he comes to the shelter every morning to look after the 81 bears.
He first checks the environment at the shelter and takes care of the baby bears. He prepares drinks made of honey, milk and kefir and bottle-feeds the baby bears.
He plays games with the cubs before going to the section for the adult bears. As soon as they see İbil, the bears gather around him, who feeds them with seasonal fruits such as apples and pears as well as meat and fish.
The bears follow him around everywhere, even when he is driving his tractor around the facility.
His wife, Aynur İbil, who visits the shelter from time to time, helps him prepare the bears’ foods. Together they make breads for the bears in a special wooden oven, and they add fruits to the breads to make them more nutritious.
Speaking to state-run Anadolu Agency, İbil said he got the job years ago through his relative; at first with hesitation, but he said he got used to them through time.
“I take care of baby bears, which come from various parts of Turkey, with great affection until the age of two. They are treated here just how their mothers would raise them. The bears get happy when they see me; they recognize my voice. They come to me when I call them. When I come here in the morning, they follow me. They raise their hands to take food. When I clean up the shelter, they continue to follow me. So far, I have taken care of more than 50 baby bears. We are with them all the time. They don’t attack me; they love me. I love them very much, too,” İbil said.
He said the cubs would grow up to become adults carrying the same characteristics and behavior. “Here, I have seen many bears with different types of behavior. I have also seen bears that cry. I took care of them with great attention. I have not looked after my own children as much as I cared for the cubs,” he added.
İbil said bears could feel when they are loved. “They show tolerance to people who feed them. They show reaction when they don’t like a person. I’ve seen it. Once a bear cub named Ayıcık came from the İznik district. I could not forget it. He used to cry like a human baby. There is also Kocabaş; he comes to me when I call him or leaves when I tell him to go,” İbil said.
“You cannot work here without loving the animals,” he said. “My children are happy with my job. When they are asked about what their father does for a living, they say ‘my father takes care of bears.’ My friends and relatives know me as a bear caretaker. They do not know my name. But my daughter, who is in primary school, sometimes complains that I show the cubs more attention. She gets jealous,” he added.