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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

IAR brings glad tidings for bears in India

Lake on the new sanctuaryInternational Animal Rescue has today announced a major breakthrough in its campaign to free the bears with the creation of its second sanctuary to care for bears rescued in the south of the country. IAR is already the sole UK funder of a sanctuary in Agra in the north of India, which is managed by our Indian partner charity Wildlife SOS.

The Agra Bear Rescue Facility opened on Christmas Eve 2002, and is already home to 166 rescued bears.

The new facility will be established within the beautiful Bannerghatta Safari Park, just outside Bangalore. This nature reserve is already home to antelope, elephants, tigers, crocodiles and all sorts of wild birds, and at the centre of the forest is a 37 acre area set aside for bears.

Twenty-six ex-dancing bears are already kept in the park - but in terrible conditions, with most of them locked up 24 hours a day in small, dark, filthy cages. They are suffering acutely from their long imprisonment and showing signs of psychological and physical trauma. One bear repeatedly beats his head against the wall, another bear was in such a distressed state that he viciously attacked another bear and is now left uncared for apart from rare occasions when food is thrown in to him.

Geeta with one of the rescued bearsThe Indian Conservator of Forests was extremely concerned when he learned of the obvious neglect of the bears. He contacted Wildlife SOS for advice and they in turn called on IAR for help. Alan Knight flew out to Bangalore in November to assess the situation. He explains: "Once the Conservator of Forests had visited the Agra bear sanctuary he knew we could be trusted to look after the bears in Bannerghatta. And so not only have we been given the go ahead to care for them and give them their freedom, but also to transform their prison into a brand new sanctuary for other rescued bears.

"This is a major breakthrough in our campaign to free bears in India. We’re able to end the misery of these 26 bears right now and we hope they'll be roaming free by the end of the year. And we also have the foundations for the sanctuary in southern India that we’ve been looking for. In time we can turn it into a proper home for as many as 200 bears and then we’ll be in a position to cut free all the bears that are still being forced to dance for tourists in the south."

A vet and a bear handler from Agra have already travelled to Bangalore to attend to the bears. They are confident that with the right care and attention and a healthy diet even the most distressed bears can be rehabilitated.

Alan Knight continues: "By Christmas this year the total number of bears in the Agra sanctuary will be close to 200. It’s amazing to think how much we’ve achieved in just three years. With the opening of the new sanctuary in Bannerghatta we can continue to make huge progress in our campaign to stamp out the dancing bear trade in India for good."