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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

2009 is our Year of the Bear

International Animal Rescue has designated 2009 as The Year of the Bear which will end the dancing bear trade in India for good.

Rescued dancing bear now safe in our sanctuary in AgraFollowing the rescue of Chitra, the 500th bear to be taken off the streets, IAR is nominating 2009 as our Year of the Bear: we believe it will be the year in which we bring the final curtain down on the mutilation and abuse of bears for entertainment.

Alan Knight, CEO of IAR, comments: "This will be a historic event in the history of animal welfare in India. To end a tradition that for centuries has been part of a country's cultural and social identity will be a rare and extraordinary achievement. The project is unique in providing a comprehensive rehabilitation programme for the bear handlers as well as for the bears themselves. Working in cooperation with the Indian government and forestry department and our partners Wildlife SOS in Delhi, we are providing a brighter future for animals and people. In years to come the suffering of the dancing bears and the poverty and deprivation of the Kalandars will be looked back on with horror. And we will be justly proud of the role we have played in changing their lives.

"By nominating 2009 as International Animal Rescue's Year of the Bear we aim to give a new impetus to the campaign. This year we will be promoting a new bear adoption programme so that people can sponsor the rescued bears and follow their progress back to health. We're also planning some exciting fundraising events and hope to enlist the support of animal-loving celebrities to ensure they are a real success. UK comedians Jo Brand and Bill Bailey have been incredibly supportive of our work in the past and we’re approaching some well-known figures in the US in the hope that they will be equally keen to raise awareness of our work during this very special year.

The first six bears were rescued on Christmas Eve 2002 when the sanctuary in Agra opened its doors. Since then International Animal Rescue has worked with Indian partners Wildlife SOS, as well as Free the Bears Australia and One Voice France to rescue and rehabilitate adult bears and cubs that were poached from the wild and destined for a life on the streets. The charities believe there are now only about 130 dancing bears awaiting rescue.

More bears have already been located in remote villages waiting to be rescued. The majority are in very poor condition and in need of medical care. They will be rescued as soon as more night dens have been built for them at the sanctuaries.

Alan Knight concludes: "It's hard to be patient when we know animals are suffering. But we are more determined than ever to rescue all the remaining bears, and 2009 is the year in which we intend to do it.