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Dancing bears 'tradition' to be halted in India

29/08/2006 00:00:00

Dancing bears is an ancient tardition in India,

Indian dancing bear facts

  • Indian dancing bears are sloth bears that poachers have snatched from the wild as tiny cubs, usually by killing their mother. Sloth bears are listed on Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and all international trade in them is prohibited. As well as being poached for the dancing bear trade, bear parts are thought to have healing properties and bears are highly prized for use in traditional medicines.
  • A captured sloth bear is trained with terrible cruelty to become a dancing bear. Its claws are ripped out and its teeth broken off with a hammer to make it easier for its handler to control. Worst of all, a red hot poker is pushed up through its nose and out through the top of its snout. A rope is threaded through the open wound. When the handler raises the rope above his head, the bear stands up on its hind legs to escape the pain, making it appear as though it is dancing.
October 2006 - In defiance of sceptics who claimed the problem was too big for them to solve, 2 animal rescue charities look set to make history by ending the tradition of ‘dancing’ bears in India. With backing from the Indian government, International Animal Rescue (IAR) and Wildlife SOS of India (WSOS) are confident they can eradicate the cruel practice within the next 5 years. International Animal Rescue (IAR) and WSOS have already rescued an amazing 300 bears from the streets in the last 4 years and rehabilitated them in sanctuaries in the north and south of India. They have just removed the last bears from the tourist routes around Agra, home of the famous Taj Mahal, and the historic city of Fatehpur Sikri. This represents a huge milestone in the campaign to end the practice for good.

Alan Knight, IAR Chief Executive, said: ‘Initially the challenge appeared gigantic, but now, thanks to the support of the Indian Government, we have already succeeded in eradicating the brutal practice of ‘dancing’ bears in large parts of India in a very short space of time. The Indian Government should be very proud of the success of the project and encourage people to support it.’ ‘We now have the experience, the expertise and the infrastructure to step up the campaign and rescue more and more bears. A survey to be published shortly has shown that there are still about 600 dancing bears in India. We have started work on a huge new area of land in Agra to expand the sanctuary which means we have everything in place to banish bears from the streets within the next five years.’

International Animal Rescue is the sole UK funder of the bear sanctuaries in India – 1 in Agra (near the Taj Mahal), 1 in Bannerghatta near Bangalore and 1 in Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh) as well as a transit facility in Hyderabad. The sanctuaries are managed by Wildlife SOS and have been developed as centres of excellence for the rehabilitation of endangered sloth bears. Pioneering dental work has been carried out on the rescued bears which have had their teeth broken off with hammers by their handlers to make them easier to control. The team even fitted a gold crown on one bear to save its tooth.

The charities are also launching radio telemetry projects to study the complex problem of man/bear conflict that is on the rise in some states in India.

IAR and WSOS have recruited UK celebrities Bill Bailey and Jo Brand to help raise the profile of their work.

More abut International Animal Rescue 

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