Two endangered bear cubs rescued from poachers in India
Two endangered bear cubs rescued from poachers in India may have been destined for the trade in bear paw soup - a delicacy in some south east Asian countries. The cubs, a male and a female of less than 12 weeks old, were found to be severely traumatised and dehydrated when they were rescued.
The successful rescue operation was carried out by IAR’s Indian partners Wildlife SOS in conjunction with the Andhra Pradesh Forest Department. Once the cubs are pronounced fit to travel they will be moved from a temporary holding centre in Hyderabad to one of the permanent rescue facilities funded by International Animal Rescue.
The poacher-trader Malang Shah, aged 23 years, has been sent to Judicial Custody.
Barely 60 days after Wildlife SOS rescued a two week old bear cub from a poacher in Orissa, its Surveillance Network ’Forestwatch’ received an intelligence report from Andhra Pradesh about two young cubs brought secretly into Karim Nagar district in the state. Soon after receiving the information, a decoy was sent in to confirm the information and a second informer was put on duty to ensure that the poacher in possession of the young bear cubs didn’t dispose of them out of fear of being under surveillance.
At the same time news came in that some buyers from neighbouring villages were due at the trader’s house the following day to purchase the cubs and possibly sell them on to middlemen for the bear paw soup trade. This meant that Wildlife SOS and the Andhra Pradesh Forest Department had to act fast.
Wildlife SOS passed on the intelligence received to the PCCF (Wildlife) and Chief Wildlife Warden of Andhra Pradesh - Mr. Hitesh Malhotra, who immediately organized two teams of Forest Department personnel at Karim Nagar while keeping the details of the operation confidential. After receiving confirmation of the necessary enforcement support from the Chief Wildlife Warden, the three- member Wildlife SOS anti-poaching team reached Hyderabad on the same night and proceeded to Karim Nagar, 200 kilometres away, arriving at 3 am the following morning. Here Mr. Rizwi, Conservator of Forests, Karim Nagar and DFOs Mr Raja Rao and Mr S K Gupta had gathered a raiding party of 12 forest officers on call. A brief meeting later, a convoy of three vehicles with two jeeps belonging to Andhra Pradesh Forest Department and one with the Wildlife SOS anti-poaching team made its way to Peddapali, the place where the poacher-trader was hiding in a hut.
One km away from the location, all vehicles stopped, while a Wildlife SOS surveillance team went to ascertain the precise location and plan the execution of the seizure The hut was precariously positioned beside a very small seven-foot wide jeep track with an open canal with flowing water running on the other side. "One wrong move and the poacher could have easily dumped the cubs in the canal to drown in order to destroy his evidence," was the main concern of the Wildlife SOS team. One surveillance vehicle was positioned strategically on the seven foot wide road, while the other two vehicles stationed themselves 400 metres away from the spot. The raiding party swiftly but silently made their way to the hut in the dark.
Upon reaching the hut, the poacher was placed under arrest, while a swift search of his premises revealed two tiny bear cubs concealed in a basket inside a locked room. The cubs were dehydrated and undernourished.
The arrested man and the cubs were taken to the Forest Department Headquarters in Karim Nagar and produced later in the local district Courts. Wildlife SOS Criminal Advocate Mr. S.N. Vashishth assisted in legal documentation of the case.
Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder of Wildlife SOS who was involved in the operation said, "We’re currently investigating the exact region from which the cubs had been poached. They could have come from the Eastern Godavri region or from neighbouring forests in Karnataka."
Alan Knight, CEO of International Animal Rescue, said: "The rescue operation took place just in the nick of time: after the trauma of being snatched from their mothers and with no suitable food or care, those two little cubs would probably only have survived a matter of days."
On interrogation the poacher confessed that he had purchased the cubs from a tribal two days before and was planning to sell them for Rs. 16,000 (approx USD 400.)
Alan Knight continued: "Initially the traders used to sell cubs for the trade in dancing bears for as little as 500-1000 Indian Rupees because the supply of wild cubs from the forest was regular and widespread. But thanks to stringent law enforcement poaching has been significantly reduced and as a result the trader in this case was planning to sell the cubs for Rs 16000 - an increase of about 16 times!"
Hitesh Malhotra, Chief Wildlife Warden, said: "We will leave no stone unturned to ensure such offenders are punished. The offender shall be tried under various sections of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972."
If convicted the poacher could go to jail for up to seven years.