Bear cubs rescued in India and wildlife traffickers arrested
Two endangered sloth bear cubs of only a few weeks old are now safe in a sanctuary funded by International Animal Rescue (IAR) after being seized from wildlife traffickers during a dramatic raid in India.
Two people were arrested during the joint operation by IAR’s Indian partners Wildlife SOS (WSOS), the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department and the local police force.
Wildlife SOS leads a dedicated Wildlife Crime Intelligence Unit known as Forestwatch¹ which works across several states in India to control poaching and the illegal trade in bear cubs and other wildlife.
The unit had received information via its informer network that bear cubs were being smuggled from Orissa to various parts of India including Uttar Pradesh. WSOS worked closely with the Conservator of Forests to organise the raids in several villages in the Fatehpur area which led to the rescue of the two cubs.
International Animal Rescue is the sole UK funder of the Agra bear rescue facility which is caring for the cubs, and also of three other bear rescue centres across India. Alan Knight, CEO of International Animal Rescue, said "IAR and Wildlife SOS are working closely with the Indian Government to stamp out the illegal traffic in sloth bears for the dancing bear trade. To date we have rescued more than 355 bears, most of which are adult bears that we have taken off the streets, but some are cubs that have been poached from the wild.
Such young animals need specialist attention if they are to survive the trauma of being snatched from their mothers and kept in small boxes or sacks to keep them hidden from view. Our vets and keepers are experts in supplying them with the food and the round-the-clock care that will help them to survive in spite of the horror they have been through."
Kartick Satyanarayan, of Wildlife SOS said, "We worked closely with the police and forest department in this operation. Such seizures help to raise awareness of the issue of wildlife smuggling, and serve to deter further crimes of this nature in the area. It is appalling to see defenceless bear cubs being exploited in such a brutal manner for a few rupees".
Sloth bear cubs are stolen from caves after their mothers are killed by poachers for a mere 500 to 600 Rupees (between £5 and £6). The cubs are then bought by illegal wildlife traders who sell them on to Kalandars nomads who brutally insert a rope through the muzzle of the bears and then use them to entertain tourists.
The practice of dancing bears is banned under the Wildlife Protection Act of India of 1972 and is severely punishable with seven years imprisonment and a fine of 25000 Rs (about £300). Sloth bears are highly endangered and protected under Schedule 1 of the Act and are also listed on Appendix I of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.)