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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

IAR scores a century at bear sanctuary

Rescued male bear cubWe are happy to announce the rescue of three sloth bear cubs, bringing the total number of bears in our sanctuary near the Taj Mahal to 101. The cubs were rescued from the Indian state of Maharashtra and brought to the Agra Bear Rescue Centre. They were accompanied on the journey by a vet and two members of staff from the sanctuary.

Although only months old, the cubs had already had holes burned through their noses and ropes inserted through the wounds as the first step to becoming dancing bears. Alan Knight, CEO of International Animal Rescue, explains: "Even though the dancing bear trade has been illegal in India since 1972, tiny cubs of only weeks old are still snatched from their mothers in the wild and sold on to kalandar nomads who train them to perform for tourists.

The cubs had already suffered the agony of having a red hot needle forced up through their nostril and out through the top of their snout. Then a rope was pushed through the raw wound. Had they not been rescued, they would have learned to respond to a vicious jerk of the rope by standing on their hind legs and ’dancing’ - in reality, these bears are writhing in pain."

Weighing in one of the new arrivals at the sanctuaryIAR has been funding the Agra bear sanctuary since December 2002 when it took in its first six bears. The centre, created on land donated by the Uttar Pradesh Forestry Department, is managed by Indian charity Wildlife SOS. It provides expert treatment and rehabilitation for bears of all ages, from tiny cubs that have been rescued from poachers at only weeks old, to blind bears that have endured years ’dancing’ on the streets. The sanctuary, which contains quarantine and socialisation areas, as well as natural jungle where the bears can live in a semi-wild state, is now almost full to capacity and IAR is working hard to raise funds for its expansion.

Alan Knight continues: "It’s estimated that there are still about 1,000 dancing bears in India. Before the sanctuary opened, there was nowhere to house rescued bears and so they either remained on the streets or were imprisoned in zoos. Now that we have proved that they can recover from the trauma of their lives on the streets, we will continue to rescue them and provide them with a safe haven. The big challenge for us is raising sufficient funds to expand the sanctuary so that we can take in and care for more and more bears and eradicate the practice for good."

Rescued male bear cubIAR supports a rehabilitation scheme which assists with retraining and employment for kalandars who surrender their bears. It was as a result of this scheme that the three new cubs were brought in.

On arrival at the sanctuary, the bears will be allowed to recover from their trauma before having the ropes removed. In the weeks ahead they will spend time in quarantine before learning to socialise with other older cubs.