Aug 1, 2011
In late July 2010, the floods in Pakistan, caused by the "heaviest monsoon flooding since 1929" resulted in the complete submersion of the WSPA-funded sanctuary in Kund Park, and the tragic death of 20 bears that were housed there.
At the time, despite the daunting conditions, staff from WSPA’s local partner organization, the Bioresource Research Centre (BRC) launched heroic rescues, saving three of the bears and transporting them to another WSPA-funded sanctuary in nearby Balkasar.
That same heroism has helped BRC recover from last year’s setback, and continue its work in 2011 to rescue bears from the cruel practice of bear baiting and bring them to Balkasar Sanctuary to live the rest of their lives in peace and freedom.
There are now ten bears being looked after at Balkasar – an astounding success considering that it is less than the year since the sanctuary was fully completed.
The most recently rescued and re-homed bears are Azad, Sawan and Nita. They all spent the first few years of their lives being forced to fight at cruel bear baiting events. But now, safely within Balkasar Sanctuary, their injuries are being treated as they prepare for a life of freedom.
Although bear rescues are the most dramatic high points in BRC’s work, they are usually the culmination of long periods of hard work. In the first six months of 2011, BRC’s bear baiting event monitoring teams have traveled to as many as 229 locations (fairs, private grounds or villages of landlords known to support bear baiting) to investigate reports of the practice. Thanks to their vigilance, they managed to stop 11 of the 16 bear baiting events being organized at public fairs.
They have also maintained an ongoing campaign to convince powerful landlords to stop supporting bear baiting events, and have invited some of them to visit the sanctuary. These visits help showcase the contrast between the cruelty of bear baiting and the pleasant life in the sanctuary.
While Azad, Sawan and Nita acclimate to their new lives, BRC staff members continue to follow up with the families that used to own the bears, and make sure they are adapting to their new lives too. Alternative livelihoods – complete with investment, training and support – were provided to the families of Ajmal Hussain (who owned Sawan) and Zarwar Hussain (who owned Azad and Nita) to ensure that they will not revert back to bear baiting.
Although Azad, Sawan and Nita have found new lives, there are other bears that still desperately need to be rescued and other families that need BRC’s guidance to end their dependence on bear baiting and move on to cruelty-free lives.