IAR celebrates fifth anniversary of the rescue of Raju, the last dancing bear in India
After playing a leading role in ending the cruel practice of dancing bears in India, International Animal Rescue is marking the anniversary by releasing new images and footage of Raju, the last bear to be rescued, enjoying life in the Bannerghatta Bear Rescue Centre in southern India.
IAR joined forces with Indian charity Wildlife SOS in 2002 and on Christmas Eve that year we rescued the first dancing bears off the streets. This marked the beginning of a project that was to end the suffering of more than 600 sloth bears and provide them with a safe haven for the rest of their lives.
On 18 December 2009 animal lovers around the world rejoiced at the rescue of Raju, the last dancing bear in India. Alan Knight, CEO of IAR, joined representatives from Wildlife SOS and Free the Bears Australia at the Bannerghatta centre to witness Raju’s surrender by his handler, a member of the nomadic Kalandar tribe. The historic event formed the subject of a one hour documentary by the BBC entitled “Saving India’s Dancing Bears.”
Alan Knight said: “Today we’re celebrating the fact that there are no more dancing bears suffering on the streets of India. Every single bear was rescued from its misery and given a new life free from fear and pain. In addition, the bear handlers were provided with seed money to start new trades and support their families. This holistic approach has proved vital to the project’s success.”
Having spent years in captivity on the end of a short length of rope, the bears are no longer equipped physically or mentally to survive in the wild. Instead, with support from International Animal Rescue and Free the Bears, the dedicated team of vets and carers at Wildlife SOS work to provide the rescued bears with an environment which is as close as possible to a natural life in the wild.
International Animal Rescue has pledged to care for the bears for the rest of their lives. “It’s the least we can do after all they’ve been through” says Knight, “but we couldn’t do it without the support of the public. The bears are particularly popular with animal lovers so we’ve made them the subject of our Christmas appeal in order to raise funds for their food and care during the year ahead.”
Anyone still looking for Christmas gifts with a genuine feel good factor can find bears (and other animals) available for adoption via the International Animal Rescue website. Adoption packs are supplied digitally or in a postal version, with or without a cuddly toy. Funds raised from the adoption packs go towards buying the “bear necessities” and, at this special time of year, even some extra goodies and treats for Raju and his friends.