IAR appoints animal behaviour expert to head up US office
An American graduate with a lifelong love of animals has landed her dream job working for International Animal Rescue in the US. Laurence Van Atten from Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, studied Animal Welfare and Animal behaviour at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. In 2006 she spent three months in India at the Agra sanctuary for rescued dancing bears which is funded by IAR. Now she has made it possible for IAR to open an office in the US and is using her experiences in India to spread the word about the charity’s work.
Laurence worked on providing various forms of environmental enrichment for the blind bears at the facility to try to improve their mental and physical wellbeing. Enrichment is a crucial factor in preventing boredom and promoting natural behaviours. By increasing the opportunities for the bears at the sanctuary to forage, their explorative and manipulative instincts were stimulated, consequently challenging the animals on a cognitive level.
The project was highly successful and some bears that did not normally leave their dens were running around their enclosures investigating and playing happily with a variety of ’toys.’ These ranged from simple bundles of straw to ’honey logs’ - large bamboo poles smeared on the inside with honey that the bears lick spend hours licking out; from ordinary rubber tires to ’wobble trees’ - baskets of fruit mounted on wooden poles that the bears learn to shake to make the fruit drop - all just as they would in the wild. High quality digital pictures and video are available upon request.
Laurence then completed her degree and moved back to Massachusetts. However, she was so impressed with the work of International Animal Rescue that she agreed to open the first ever IAR office in America. Laurence will be organising lectures and fundraising events to raise awareness of IAR’s efforts and she is now available for interviews, comments, and speaking engagements. A documentary about Laurence’s work with International Animal Rescue is being shown on local cable stations throughout Massachusetts and is available upon request.