years ago this April, Jill Robinson first walked onto a bear bile farm. On that day in April 1993, Jill could have walked away, but she chose to act and do what she could. Today, you also have a choice. If everyone reading this donated just US$20, it would pay for the care of over 150 bears at our China sanctuary for a full year. Please help us celebrate 20 years of progress. Donate US$20 today (or whatever you can afford).
Animals Asia is delighted to hear that after seven years, Wildlife SOS in India has made history by rescuing the very last dancing bear from the streets of India. Animals Asia would like to congratulate Wildlife SOS and its international partners for achieving this incredible goal.
Wildlife SOS has worked tirelessly since 2002 to save the dancing bears of India, saving almost 600 bears from their abusive pasts and giving them a new life at their sanctuaries in Agra, Van Vihar and Bannerghatta.
As well as helping bears, Wildlife SOS has also changed people’s lives, training former bear dancers in new vocations, educating their children, and empowering the women in the local communities – ensuring the bear dancers don’t return to their abusive pasts.
Bear dancing dates back to the 13th century, when the nomadic gypsy tribe, the Kalandars started to buy sloth bear cubs from poachers and force them, through pain and fear, to dance. When the cubs are just six months old, the Kalandars drive a heated iron needle through their muzzles without providing any anaesthesia or antibiotics. A rope is inserted through the hole to control the bear and force him to perform. These wounds often become severely infected. To avoid harm to themselves, the Kalandars also knock out the bears’ canine teeth with a metal rod.
From this time onwards the bears live on the end of the rope and are forced to dance. Most of the bears live like this for just a few years before dying of tuberculosis, leptrospirosis or rabies. Many of the bears rescued by Wildlife SOS are also blind due to severe malnutrition.
The practice of dancing bears was made illegal in India when the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 came into effect, but it was not until 2002 when Wildlife SOS began rescuing bears that this industry began seriously to decline. Wildlife SOS, working in partnership with International Animal Rescue, Free the Bears Inc and One Voice operate three rescue centres for bears in India. This latest rescue brings an end to this centuries-old tradition that has inflicted terrible pain and cruelty onto thousands of bears. Please see more about the historic rescue of the last Indian dancing bear from the Wildlife SOS website below.
“Till now over 600 bears have been rescued and given a permanent home and lifetime care in Wildlife SOS rehabilitation centres throughout India. This is simultaneous to providing a rehabilitation package for the bear handlers, known as kalandars, so that they can learn new trades and continue supporting their families after surrendering their bears. For the first time Kalandar children are able to attend school and receive an education sponsored by the Kalandar Rehabilitation Project.
Geeta Seshamani, Co-Founder of Wildlife SOS, said: “Thanks to assistance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the Government of India and the state forest departments - and our supporters around the world - it has taken less than a decade to bring an end to this barbaric practice and give the bears and the kalandar community a second chance in life.”
Kartick Satyanarayan, Co-Founder of Wildlife SOS, said: “This event is of huge historic significance in India and cause for real celebration. No longer will India be tainted by the shocking spectacle of captive bears being beaten on the roadside or dragged miserably through the traffic and dust by a rope through their noses. It is time for everyone who has supported this project to rejoice at what we have achieved.”