Jun 1, 2011
Six months after their rescue from horrific bear baiting events, Leela, Kaali and Bhoori are enjoying their new freedoms
Many supporters were moved by the story of Leela, Kaali and Bhoori – the three bears that were rescued from bear baiting and moved to Balkasar Sanctuary in January. We are happy to report that the bears have now been moved out of quarantine and are adapting well to their lives in the sanctuary.
When eight-year old Leela arrived at Balkasar, she was in very poor condition – her coat was very rough and patchy, and she was showing signs of blindness. But, after four months at Balkasar, “she is like a new bear,” says Malik Sarwar, Senior Sanctuary Manager.
“Her coat has changed completely – it is smooth and glossy. And she can now see well out of one of her eyes. She is a very busy bear and roams around her enclosure, confidently searching for food. It is so wonderful to see such a difference in her quality of life. ”
Sarwar is experienced in dealing with blind bears – he patiently helped another bear, Chowti, grow her confidence to find food and explore when she arrived at Balkasar last year.
“Blindness in baited bears is not unusual and is believed to be largely caused by the poor diets given by their owners,” explains Dr. Jan Schmidt-Burbach, WSPA’s Wildlife Veterinary Programs Manager.
Five-year-old Kaali’s life has also dramatically improved at Balkasar. She was very quiet and subdued when she arrived at the sanctuary and – as is common with bears used in baiting – her teeth and hind claws had been removed.
“In the wild, bears like Kaali would be climbing trees, foraging for food and have no contact with humans,” explains Sarwar. “We can’t set baited bears like Kaali free because they wouldn’t survive – they wouldn’t be able to find food or defend themselves. We can, however, greatly improve their quality of life here at Balkasar.”
Kaali is now learning to climb trees and getting along well with neighboring bears Babu, Maylu and Sohrab. She particularly likes bathing in the pools in the spacious enclosures.
For Bhoori, an eight-year-old bear, Balkasar has provided security, kindness and freedom from hunger and thirst.
“She is a beautiful bear,” says Sarwar. “But, she has gone into the habit of hanging her tongue out of one side of her mouth. We think this could be because she was always hungry and thirsty as a baited bear – her owners didn’t really understand how much she needed to eat and drink. It could also be a reaction to the stress she felt when she was being tied up and set upon by dogs during baiting events.”
“When she first arrived, she kept very much to herself, but is now beginning to socialize, wander and forage among the lush plants and grasses in her enclosure,” he adds.
There are approximately 70 bears still being used in horrific baiting events. Thanks to our supporters’ generosity, we are able to continue our work with partner Bioresource Research Centre (BRC) to negotiate with bear owners and secure the animals’ freedom – just as was the case with Leela, Kaali and Bhoori.
“By establishing the bears’ former owners in new careers – such as retail ventures, with stable incomes – we can ensure that the bears we rescue are not just replaced with new bears from the wild. Our goal is to end bear baiting for good,” explains Dr. Schmidt-Burbach.
Image © BRC