Our Work - Dancing Bear Rescue
The Agra Bear Rescue Facility (ABRF) lies a few kilometres north of the famous Taj Mahal in the north of India. It is run by our Indian partners Wildlife SOS and their expert team of vets and keepers.
Construction of the facility was initially funded by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA). When the basic building work had been completed, International Animal Rescue agreed to provide the extra funds needed to get the sanctuary up and running. This enabled us to bring the first six bears into Agra on Christmas Eve 2002. In the years that followed the project went from strength to strength and became so successful that by the end of 2009 all the dancing bears on the streets of India had been rescued. The majority are housed in Agra, others at a second sanctuary in Bannerghatta near Bangalore in the south and a small number at a third facility in Bhopal, central India.
The Agra and Bannerghatta sanctuaries are fully equipped to treat and rehabilitate the rescued bears. State of the art veterinary surgeries allow accurate diagnosis of injuries and ailments and swift and efficient treatment. As well as suffering from malnutrition and often from diseases such as tuberculosis and leptospirosis, the bears also often need surgery for horrific nose wounds, broken teeth and infected gums.
The Agra facility is situated on land within the government-owned Sur Sarovar Bird Sanctuary, under the overall supervision of the Uttar Pradesh Forestry Department. The sanctuary provides a beautiful natural forest habitat where the bears roam freely after a period of quarantine and rehabilitation. The socialisation areas have freshwater bathing pools, purpose-built dens, feeding and resting areas, as well as climbing frames and other types of other environmental enrichment.
In 2006 International Animal Rescue and Wildlife SOS signed an agreement on an additional area of land across the river to expand the facility. Enclosing and developing the site began almost at once and is ongoing. More dens are needed, as well as extensive planting of trees and other vegetation to reforest the former farmland. Gradually, thanks to the loyalty and generosity of our supporters, we are creating a perfect paradise where bears can rest and recover from the trauma of their lives on the streets.
At the end of 2005 International Animal Rescue and Wildlife SOS were given the chance to set up a second sanctuary for dancing bears in India within the beautiful Bannerghatta Safari Park outside Bangalore.
The nature reserve is home to antelope, elephants, tigers, crocodiles and a variety of wild birds, and at the centre of the forest is a 37 acre area set aside for bears. Twenty-six bears were being kept in cages in the park in appalling conditions. They were suffering terribly from their long imprisonment and showing signs of psychological and physical trauma.
The Indian Conservator of Forests was extremely concerned when he learned of the neglect of the bears. He contacted Wildlife SOS for advice and they in turn called on International Animal Rescue for help.
Once the Conservator of Forests had visited the Agra bear sanctuary he knew International Animal Rescue and Wildlife SOS could be trusted to look after the bears in Bannerghatta. Our two charities were given the go ahead to care for them and give them their freedom, and also to convert their prison into a brand new sanctuary for other rescued bears in the south of India.
This was a major breakthrough in our campaign to rescue bears in India. It spelled an end to the misery of the 26 bears and also provided the foundations for the sanctuary in southern India that we had been looking for.
Since those early days, much money and time have been invested in Bannerghatta so that the care and housing it provides for the bears equal the standard in Agra.