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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

Agra bear sanctuary flood crisis in India

Monsoon rains in India have created a challenging situation for the Agra Bear Sanctuary in India where over 270 rescued dancing bears are being rehabilitated.

The Agra bear sanctuary gates are under waterThe rapidly rising floodwaters of the holy Yamuna River have forced our partners at Wildlife SOS India (WSOS) to put the Agra Bear Sanctuary on high alert with the 70 staff of vets and bear keepers on a round-the-clock vigil to ensure the floodwaters do not spring any unpleasant surprises. They have been forced to evacuate the bears from their enclosures and move them to higher ground to keep them safe.

A similar situation arose last year, with water levels hitting the danger mark and floodwater rising almost to the rooftops of some buildings in the sanctuary. The WSOS team reacted swiftly, moving bears and supplies to dry land by boat and, thanks to their prompt action, no human or animal lives were lost. However, considerable damage was done to the sanctuary, with valuable veterinary equipment ruined and buildings submerged in water and silt. The clean-up operation was time-consuming and costly and sadly the outcome could well be the same again this year.

The WSOS team moving the bears to safetyReporting from the Agra sanctuary, Geeta Seshamani, Co-Founder of Wildlife SOS, said today: "The floodwaters are rising really fast and we are all quite jumpy. All the bears have been moved to safety on higher ground and to enclosures that are above the danger level, but if the floodwaters rise any further, this will lead to major problems.

"We simply have to find a permanent solution to what is clearly going to be a serious and recurring problem – and that is going to require the construction of new dens and enclosures outside the danger zone. And that means more money on top of what we already need to feed the bears. I just hope we can count on the public and our supporters to keep us afloat!"

Flooding only became a problem at the ABRF following the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in October 2010 when the Games village was built on the flood plains of the Yamuna. After the building work for the Games was completed, the management of the flow of the Yamuna River appears to have been altered to prevent the athletes' Games Village from flooding. The knock-on impact of this was felt downstream where, following heavy monsoon rains, floodgates on the river were opened and serious flooding occurred.

Bear being moved to an enclosure above the danger levelThe Yamuna River runs on the periphery of the Sur Sarovar Sanctuary where the Agra Bear Sanctuary is located and consequently a large portion of this was exposed to serious levels of floodwater.

Alan Knight, Chief Executive of International Animal Rescue, said: "The alterations to the flow of the river were beyond the control of our partners at Wildlife SOS. We are committed to helping them care for these beautiful bears and are calling on our supporters and members of the public to help us provide a long-term solution to this crisis. The thought of losing any of our keepers or any of the bears in the floods is too awful to contemplate and I know the team at Wildlife SOS will do everything they can to ensure this doesn't happen."

» Donate to the Agra Bear Sanctuary Emergency Flood Fund