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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

IAR teams up with Naturetrek for a walk on the wild side

A Hampshire company that specialises in environmentally responsible holidays is offering an exciting new wildlife tour in India this November in support of International Animal Rescue. The trip, organised by Naturetrek of Alresford, will not only visit the Bharatpur bird sanctuary and the Ranthambore National Park, home to some of India’s majestic tigers, but also, for the first time, the Agra bear sanctuary which houses nearly 200 endangered sloth bears that have been rescued from the streets of India. The sanctuary, managed by Wildlife SOS (WSOS) of India, is funded in the UK by IAR.

The rescued bears live in a semi-wild state on land within the Sur Sarovar Bird Sanctuary, just 27 kilometres from the Taj Mahal. After years held captive on the end of a rope, they could never fend for themselves in the wild. At the sanctuary they have freedom to forage and roam in the lush vegetation, to climb in the forest of trees or to cool off in the freshwater pools. In spite of their numbers, the bears aren’t easy to spot amongst the shadowy greenery that shields the sun and protects the most timid among them from prying eyes. You may catch no more than a glimpse of shaggy brown fur as they go about the business of just being bears. Others are less shy and retiring - feeding, grooming, playing and fighting in full view of fascinated onlookers.

Naturetrek provides Britain’s largest selection of professionally-organised natural history holidays. All are expertly guided by a leading ornithologist or botanist with a good knowledge of the area to be visited. Now, for the first time, they have created a bespoke tour to include a day with the bears in Agra. Naturetrek holidays are renowned for their educational value which extends beyond an interest solely in plants and wildlife. In line with this philosophy, visitors to the sanctuary will be given a unique insight into the plight of the sloth bear in India and the project that provides a solution for both animals and people. For the bears, it means an end to pain and suffering; for the bears’ handlers it means a new beginning - the chance to retrain and build a future that doesn’t rely on the grim spectacle of animal cruelty.

During the day at the sanctuary Wildlife SOS representatives will take visitors behind the scenes to learn about the specialist care that turns a tortured and broken bear into a boisterous bundle of fur with a gleaming coat and a new zest for life. It is a story that really does have a happy ending.

The holiday takes place from 17 November to 26 November and again from 16 February to 25 February 2007. Naturetrek has generously offered to donate 10% of the income from this unique tour to the free the bears campaign led by IAR and Wildlife SOS.