Bear cubs saved from gruesome fate thanks to anti-poaching operation
Five tiny bear cubs and two young adult bears have been rescued after an undercover anti-poaching operation by International Animal Rescue's Indian partners Wildlife SOS. The bears were rescued from the Banka district of Bihar and three wildlife traders were arrested by the police.
The five male sloth bear cubs are between three and five weeks old and have all been caught from the wild. Their mothers are likely to have been killed while trying to protect their young from the poachers. The two adults - a male and female - were being used as dancing bears in Nepal. They had recently been smuggled back into India through Bihar. Both bears had lengths of coarse rope threaded through open wounds in their noses which were used to force them to 'dance.'
The week-long undercover investigation to gather intelligence about the cubs' and poachers' whereabouts resulted in a night-time operation in the remote areas of Banka and a series of raids by the Bihar Police assisted by the Wildlife SOS anti-poaching unit.
The Banka state veterinary doctor subsequently carried out a medical examination of the rescued animals. He said they were in a traumatised and dehydrated state and recommended the bears be taken immediately to the bear rehabilitation centre in Agra which is run by WSOS and funded by International Animal Rescue and Free The Bears Fund Australia.
Geeta Seshamani, Co-Founder of Wildlife SOS, said: "The poachers usually kill the female bears in the forest in order to poach the bear cubs, which are then sold to illegal wildlife traders in South East Asia, sometimes using routes via Nepal. The paws of the baby bears are cut off and used in bear paw soup delicacies, while other parts are used for traditional Chinese medicine, including aphrodisiacs.
Kartick Satyanarayan, Co-Founder of Wildlife SOS, added: "Our anti-poaching network works in 13 states that are largely known for the poaching of sloth bears and other wildlife. We contacted the Director General of Police of Bihar who responded positively and provided us with the necessary police support through the Police Superintendents of Banka and Bhagalpur. The Chief Wildlife Warden of Bihar has also been coordinating the relocation of these bears with us. It is only thanks to the support of the Government that we are able to tackle wildlife crime effectively"
Alan Knight OBE, IAR's Chief Executive, commented: "We're delighted at the successful outcome of this operation which has saved the lives of seven young bears. Wildlife SOS runs a skilled and well-organised anti-poaching team which is not only effective at catching criminals, but I hope also deters others from getting involved in this kind of illegal activity.
Mary Hutton, Founder of Free The Bears Fund, also added her congratulations to the team: "Well done to Wildlife SOS and to the Government Departments on this great result. Thanks to them, these bears will now be able to enjoy a life of safety and freedom in the Agra Bear Rescue Facility."
The Sloth bear is a protected wildlife species under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 – the same level of protection as the tiger. Wildlife SOS and its partners have worked for more than a decade to combat the illegal trade in bear cubs and have brought an end to the barbaric, centuries-old tradition of dancing bears in India. There is still a small number of dancing bears hidden away in Nepal.
Wildlife SOS, International Animal Rescue and Free The Bears Fund Australia partnered to bring an end to the barbaric practice of Dancing Bears in India and established the Agra Bear Rescue Facility. Four bear rescue centres are run across India where more than 600 rescued bears enjoy a permanent, loving home with freedom to roam and behave as they would in the wild.
Forestwatch is a specialised anti-poaching unit established by Wildlife SOS with support from One Voice Association France. It works across India and in Nepal to tackle poaching and wildlife crime.