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Indian Forest Department and NGOs crackdown on wildlife smugglers - endangered bear cubs rescued

Rescued cubs from Baliya arrive at the Agra Bear Rescue Facility (Photo: Wildlife SOS)In a sensational wildlife crime intelligence operation carried out by the U.P Forest Department with assistance from Delhi based NGO - Wildlife S.O.S two endangered bear cubs were seized from smugglers in the Baliya district of Uttar Pradesh that borders with Bihar state. The intelligence for the operation was provided by "Forestwatch" the anti-poaching cell of Wildlife SOS with support from One Voice Association-France who had trailed and tracked the smugglers for several weeks together to reach this precise location.

The 2 five month old male Sloth bear cubs were seized from a trader belonging to the Kalandar community. The cubs were intended to be sent across the nearby Nepal border and their destination is believed to be the lucrative South East Asian market for Bear Paw soup! The raiding team included SDO Rasda Range - Mr. Kewal Prasad, Range officer- Baliya - Mr. Gokul Prasad, Dy Ranger - Arun Kumar Rai and a team of forest guards under the guidance of Conservator of Forests - Mr.C P Goyal, IFS and Deputy Conservator of Forests - Dr.R.K.Singh, IFS.

The intelligence team of Forestwatch had been on the trail of the smuggler named Shanijansai, a resident of the village Chitonisai Tola, Baliya for the last three weeks as he was trying to hide the cubs and smuggle them outside the country through the Nepal border. During the initial interrogation, he confessed to procuring the cubs from poachers for Rs. 300 (approx 8 $ USD) from Tatanagar district in Jharkhand.

According to Kartick Satyanarayan, Co-founder, Wildlife S.O.S "The Intelligence gathering & investigation that lead to this seizure was initiated from an earlier seizure done in Bihar in April, 2007. This person was hiding in the border districts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and was very difficult to track down, till finally our determined informers tracked him down to his current location in Baliya district where he was hiding them in a remote location".

He has been arrested under Sections 42, 43, 48, 50 and 51 of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The Sloth Bears are awarded the same degree of protection under this act as the Tigers, but despite that this species of bears continues to be exploited for the purpose of "Street Entertainment" by the members of the nomadic Kalandar community.

Following the Court directive, the arrested person has been sent to jail and the bear cubs have been sent for rehabilitation to the Agra Bear Rescue Facility, a collaborative project of Wildlife S.O.S with the U.P. Forest Department and primarily funded by International Animal Rescue. Other support groups funding the Agra Bear Rescue Facility are Free the Bears- Australia, One Voice France and HSI - Australia.

The rescued bear cubs weighing a mere 12 kilos reached the Agra Bear sanctuary this morning after a 800 km long journey. The delicate muzzles of the animals had already been pierced with coarse ropes. According to DFO Chambal, Dr.G.Sudhakar, IFS "The two young animals have been admitted to intensive care by the veterinary doctors of the bear rehab centre for rehydration and they will receive the best of treatment and care to help them recover from the stress of the journey and torturous months spent with the captors. The U.P Forest Department will not tolerate wildlife crime of this nature and shall bring an end to this brutal and cruel practice of Dancing Bears.