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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

Foresters Friendly Society sponsors IAR's Bear Sanctuary

Mark Rothery, chief executive of Foresters Friendly SocietyForesters Friendly Society has partnered with IAR to help rescue and provide a safe refuge for India's persecuted dancing bears. The Society, whose recently-launched Child Trust Fund, TeddyTrust, is fronted by the cuddly Forrie Bear character, is firmly committed to supporting IAR’s work to end the bears’ suffering and stamp out this illegal practice.

"By working closely with IAR, whose Agra Bear Sanctuary provides a caring home for dancing bears that have been rescued from the streets of India, we hope to help provide much-needed funds so that the IAR’s dream of rescuing all of India's dancing bears becomes a reality," said Mark Rothery, Chief Executive of Foresters Friendly Society. This is a long-term commitment during which we will be carrying out various fund-raising activities in support of IAR’s work with the Agra Bear Rescue Facility."

Forrie the bear cub who is being sponsored by Foresters Friendly SocietyThe Agra Bear Rescue Facility is under the overall supervision of the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department, which has provided land for the facility inside the Sur Sarovar Bird Sanctuary in Agra. The Rescue Facility is run and managed by Wildlife SOS in India, and IAR has pledged to provide long-term funding to help with the running costs of the sanctuary. Working with Wildlife SOS, IAR rescued the first batch of bears on Christmas Eve in 2002. Now nearly 100 bears live at the Sanctuary in a semi-natural environment, with freshwater bathing pools, purpose-built dens, and feeding and resting areas.

Said John Hicks, chairman and co-founder of IAR: "Dancing bears have been on the streets of India for many years. As tourism has grown, the pitiful sight of these wonderful sloth bears being made to ’dance’ to raise money has been seen right across the country. In 1972, the practice of 'dancing' bears was finally outlawed by the Indian government. Unfortunately, at that time there was nowhere to put the bears other than in zoos. It has taken 30 years for a purpose-built sanctuary for these bears to be established."

Mark Rothery wearing his full-size 'Forrie' costume"We keep the bears in a large acclimatisation pen to start with, which allows them to get used to their new surroundings. The bears in our care have been severely beaten throughout their lives. They have all had their incisor and canine teeth removed and their claws either removed or cut back to the quick. They also have a hole burnt into the top of their nose and a rope passed through this hole and out through the nostril. This allows the keeper to control the bear and force it to 'dance' on demand. It is hardly surprising that, once they have been taken into the sanctuary, it takes time for the bears to adjust to their new surroundings and start to trust their new keepers."

The socialisation areas which the bear enters at the end of his time in quarantine are planted with trees and shrubs, and also contain climbing frames, honey logs and other tools of environmental enrichment.