Bears Emma and Erich swimming at BEAR SANCTUARY Arbesbach

#BehindTheScenes at BEAR SANCTUARY Arbesbach

Animal caretaker and administration supporter, Gerlinde Mairhofer, gives us an exclusive look behind the scenes at the Austrian bear sanctuary


Our FOUR PAWS bear sanctuary, based in lower Austria, has offered a life-long home to bears rescued from bad keeping conditions since 1998. To find out more about the daily going ons at BEAR SANCTUARY Arbesbach we interviewed animal caretaker and administration supporter, Gerlinde Mairhofer, who has been at the sanctuary since March 2014! Gerlinde gives us an exclusive take behind the scenes!

Can you describe an average day at work? 

First, we do a check-round, prepare the food and medication for the bears, and hide about half of the food. Cleaning of the dens if necessary, and also do administration work. I usually then take photos and videos of the bears. In the afternoon, work on preparing and hiding the other half of the food for the bears. I also do guided tours with our visitors (if there is no lockdown), and at the end of the day do a final check-round again.

How many animals live at the sanctuary? 

At the moment 4 bears and one tomcat live at the sanctuary.

What's one thing that makes your job feel special? 

To have the chance to take care for our rescued animals and getting to know each individual animal and their character. To be part of a global animal welfare organisation, having the possibility to meet people from other sanctuaries and learn about their sanctuary, about their country or sometimes you even can go there and help during a job rotation procedure, that's very special.

What has been one of the most gratifying or memorable parts of your job? 

The first steps of Emma, Erich, and Miri (who has now passed away) on forest soil, after being rescued in 2015 from a tiny concrete-enclosure in a park in Upper Austria.

What is one of the most challenging aspects of working with animals/working with the sanctuary? 

To notice if an animal changes its behaviour. As bears are wild animals, they don't want to show weakness, so it is not so easy to perceive. And to say goodbye to an animal you have cared for, this is a real challenge.

What did you do before you joined FOUR PAWS? 

I was working in a building enterprise for 26 years, doing administration work.

What is one of your favourite things about working in the sanctuary? 

To be with animals and to work outside, no matter if the weather is good or bad and also have the possibility to do other things, like taking photographs or guided tours.

Do you have a favourite animal at the sanctuary? If so, why? 

No, I have no favourite animal. They are all special and are all my favourites.

How has your work at the sanctuary changed your life and impacted your family/friends/community?  

I am not spending the whole day indoors anymore and I have a dog now, which wouldn't have been possible before. Animal welfare has always been important for me, but since I work in the sanctuary, animal welfare is part of my job.
My family says that this is now the right job for me!

What do you like to do outside of work? What do you feel passionate about? 

I like to go for walks with my dog, Keksi and my husband, I also like to stay with my cats, chicken and ducks. In my spare time I enjoy doing gardening too.

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