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 Tour Guide, Assistant to Animal Caretaker and Front Desk Officer Manuela Pfeiffer who has been at the sanctuary since August 2020. Manuela gives us an exclusive take behind the scenes!
Can you describe an average day at work?
My area of responsibility here at the SANCTUARY is very varied. That is exactly what I like about my job. So, I assist the animal caretakers, I get to do guided tours with our visitors, I help as much as I can in the office, and I also support my colleagues in the store when necessary.
First thing in the morning we all go for a check round around the enclosures together. We look at the bears, fences, trees,… During this round we also discuss who can do what today and when.
After the round, I prepare the food and the necessary medication for the bears together with my colleagues.
Then it´s time for feeding in the enclosure. At the same time, we can also do things like clean out the dens or hang up new enrichments to keep our bears busy. Afterwards I wash the feed buckets and clean the feed alley.
On some days I am allowed to give a guided tour or help in the store which depends on the number of visitors. Sometimes there are things to repair until the second feeding.
After the second feeding I write the daily protocol and help as best I can with other things in the office. At about 5 p.m. we go on the inspection round and look at the bears, fences, trees,… again. After this round I record in the control book what we have noticed.
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?
It is a really unbelievable feeling to be part of such a big, inspired family and to do something valuable for animals, nature and people.
What has been one of the most gratifying or memorable parts of your job?
That was the moment when I was allowed to give Tom his medication in the lock. He was very calm and immediately accepted me as “the new one”.
What is one of the most challenging aspects of working with animals/working with the sanctuary?
Patience is not my greatest strength. Sometimes it is a challenge for me when I already have a plan in my head for the daily routine and then everything is completely different or is delayed because a bear wants to sleep longer or something like that. The calmness and composure of the bears help me to be more patient.
Another challenge for me is that a lot of the work at FOUR PAWS is done in English. But I like that because I wanted to refresh and improve my English anyway long before I came with the idea of becoming part of FOUR PAWS.
What did you do before you joined FOUR PAWS?
I have been a bank employee, a waitress, a saleswoman in a butcher's shop, and a cleaning lady during my maternity leave.
Having cancer in 2016 changed my view on life, health, the world, and its wonders. A yoga teacher training confirmed my new view. I felt more and more connected to nature and its energy. So, I was eager to do my contribution. FOUR PAWS gives me this opportunity to do that. Thank you for that.
What is one of your favourite things about working in the sanctuary?
I like all my tasks. Most of all I like the tasks of the animal caretaker. A second thing I like about being at the sanctuary is the great working atmosphere. It feels like a family.
Do you have a favourite animal at the sanctuary? If so, why?
Actually, I like all 4 bears the same. Maybe Tom a little bit more because he is the oldest bear and therefore, he needs more attention than the others.
How has your work at the sanctuary changed your life and impacted your family/friends/community?
I feel even more connected to nature and pay more attention to its resources. The topic of sustainability is now at the top of my list. My family and my friends are also paying more and more attention to the environment as a result. The spirit of FOUR PAWS is spreading and growing.
What do you like to do outside of work? What do you feel passionate about?
I love to go for a walk in nature. To dive into the wonders around us. When I find a nice place I like to do yoga outside. I also like to read, go hiking, do handicrafts, work in the garden,… And I love to take care of my family and our cat Josy.