Nov 26, 2010
Just a few weeks ago, Chowti, an Asiatic black bear, was tied up and attacked by dogs who bit and mauled her while people watched for entertainment. For her, it was just another bear baiting event, forced upon her by her owner, Fida Hussain. Luckily, this one would be her last.
The six-year-old bear suffered her last bear baiting event just hours before she was rescued and brought to Balkasar sanctuary last week.
Staff at the Bioresource Research Centre (BRC) in Pakistan had been tracking Hussain for a while. They spotted him with Chowti in several locations, and repeatedly offered him financial and personal help in setting up a new, cruelty free livelihood – under the stipulation that he would hand over Chowti. Unfortunately, Hussain resisted all attempts to bring him into BRC’s Alternate Livelihood project. So, when he and Chowti were spotted at that final bear baiting event in Sindh on Nov. 11, BRC alerted staff at the provincial government’s Wildlife Department, who took immediate action.
The Wildlife Department in Sindh played an extremely important role in this rescue – had it not been for their swift response to information about the bear baiting event, Hussain would have moved Chowti once again, and BRC staff would have had to start all over again to locate and monitor her, while she continued to suffer.
“When we found Chowti, she was covered in fresh wounds from the dogs; she is blind in both eyes, so being baited was especially terrifying for her,” says Moazam Fayyaz, Manager of Alternative Livelihoods at BRC, who escorted Chowti to Balkasar along with two Wildlife Department officials. “As soon as we confiscated her, we had to move quickly, so we hit the road for Balkasar in a vehicle loaned by the Wildlife Department. We traveled at dusk and dawn, stopping every once in a while to give Chowti some rest from the tiring confinement of being in the transport cage.”
When Chowti finally arrived at the WSPA-funded sanctuary in Balkasar on Nov. 12, staff gave her a medical exam, removed the ring that pierced her muzzle and washed her wounds. They gave her a sedative so she could rest and, later, she was released into the sanctuary’s quarantine area.
“We will need to keep a close eye on Chowti in the coming days,” says Fakhar-i-Abbas, Chief Executive of BRC. “Soon, she will be moved from the quarantine area into a training area for about three weeks, before we release her into the open spaces.”
Because she is blind, Chowti won’t be able to see the daylight when the shutters go up in the quarantine area – she’ll have to rely on her senses of smell and touch to find her way out. But she’ll be safe, well-fed and cared for.
As for Fida Hussain, he will have to find a new way to support himself – alone.
“He made a living from Chowti for more than four years, taking her to bear baiting events three or four times a month,” said Fakhar. “If he had agreed to cooperate with us, we would have had help setting up a new business – perhaps a grocery shop or a rickshaw service. But now, he’s on his own.”
“We know there are plenty more bears like Chowti in Pakistan, suffering at the hands of their owners and the landlords who allow bear baiting to take place. But, we’ve had fantastic support from the provincial authorities, and we know Chowti won’t be the last bear we rescue,” adds Fakhar.
Read more about WSPA’s campaign to end bear baiting in Pakistan and please support our work to save bears like Chowti.
Image © Bioresource Research Centre (BRC)