Raju rescue paves the way to save more dancing bears
Our team has arrived back in London after a successful mission to rescue dancing bears in India. The trip launched a new phase of IAR's 'Free the bears' campaign which aims to rescue 50 bears by Christmas.
On a previous visit to India, IAR Chief Executive Alan Knight made a pledge to rescue Raju, a dancing bear that was being openly beaten and mistreated. Alan has now fulfilled his promise and Raju has been handed over by his gypsy owner and welcomed into the bear sanctuary that IAR funds in Agra, northern India.
Alan says: "Raju has become something of a symbol for the many dancing bears still suffering on the streets of India. His rescue is a sign of our continued determination to stamp out the dancing bear trade and replace the cruelty the bears suffer with compassion and loving care."
Three bears were admitted to the sanctuary during the team’s stay in Agra, and a further 16 bears are scheduled to arrive by the end of November. In return for surrendering their bears, the kalandar gypsies receive funding to set them up in business. The kalandars who handed in bears during the team’s visit will be starting up a weaving business and building up a herd of dairy cattle. This incentive ensures financial support for their families and deters them from returning to the illegal practice of 'dancing' a bear.
Carrie Colliss, IAR Fundraising Manager, was visiting India for the first time. She says: "Although it was heartbreaking to see the pitiful condition of the bears on the streets, it was wonderful to see the transformation once they have been brought into the sanctuary. Once they are eating a proper diet and receive treatment for their wounds, their coats regain their lustre and their eyes become bright and shining.
Graphic film obtained during the trip shows the poor condition of the dancing bears and the extent of the wounds caused by the nose ropes. This is in stark contrast to pictures of the good health and boisterous behaviour of the bears that have spent several months at the sanctuary.
"After Raju's rescue, we are more determined than ever to 'free the bears'," says Alan. "We are extremely grateful to everyone who is helping to fund our campaign. Every donation we receive brings an end to the bears' agony one step closer."