IAR-backed sanctuary welcomes rescued bear cubs
Five tiny sloth bear cubs confiscated during a police raid on wildlife poachers in India have been taken in by the Agra Bear Rescue Centre. International Animal Rescue funds the running of the centre along with several other animal welfare charities.
The 85-strong police raid followed a surveillance operation by Indian charity Wildlife SOS (WSOS). The charity works closely with IAR to protect wildlife in India and their investigation proved villagers in Korai, near Agra, were involved in illegal trading in sloth bear cubs. Two further cubs were confiscated from a remote village near Jhansi. One man from Korai was arrested and charged with offences under the Wildlife Protection Act and a warrant has been issued for the arrest of five other villages. If convicted, the traders will face a jail sentence of between three and seven years.
The cubs were only weeks old when they were confiscated and had been snatched from their mothers’ dens in forests in the state of Orissa, some 1000 km from Agra. The mother bear is often killed by the poachers when she tries to defend her cubs.
Korai is a well-known Kalandar (nomad) settlement, which has long been a centre for the trade in dancing bears. Although the practice has been illegal in India since 1992, Kalandars are still frequently seen making their animals perform for tourists along the highway from Agra to Jaipur.
At the end of 2002, IAR announced the arrival in the Agra sanctuary of the first 12 dancing bears that had been rescued from the Kalandars. Alan Knight, Chief Executive of IAR, says: "The success of this operation sends a strong message to illegal traders in wildlife that such practices will not be tolerated. We congratulate everyone involved in saving these tiny cubs from a miserable and agonising fate. IAR is committed to ending the exploitation of dancing bears on the streets of India, which is not only barbaric, but poses a threat to the survival of sloth bears in the wild."
Since the establishment of the Agra Centre for the Conservation and Rehabilitation of Bears, IAR and WSOS have offered the Kalandars the opportunity to hand over their dancing bears in exchange for a rehabilitation package enabling them to find alternative employment. So far more than 50 bear owners from Korai and other Kalandar villages have accepted this offer and surrendered their animals.