Dancing bears in India begin new pain free life

Jul 7, 2006

The two bears received a second chance at life when their owners, known as Kalandars, approached The Sloth Bear Welfare and Conservation Project, a joint venture of WSPA and WTI, and agreed to hand over their captive bears in exchange for help and support in making new livelihoods for themselves.

The two bears, Kallu, age 16, and Tinku, age 14, were handed over to the Forest Department and placed in the temporary area at the Kenan Pendari Zoo, where they will receive veterinary care and proper nutrition.

A life of constant suffering

Dancing bears are part of a long and cruel tradition of ‘entertainment' in India, as well as in other parts of the world. The bears are caught from the wild as cubs and are sold to Kalandar communities throughout India.

The cubs have a hole pierced through their noses and a rope or chain inserted.  When the Kalander tugs on the rope, the bears stand on their hind paws and shuffle, as if dancing.  In actuality, the bears are moving in an attempt to avoid the intense and never-ending pain caused by the rope and constant tugging.

Arjun Nayer, Program Officer of WTI, explained the importance of this handover: “The surrender of these bears marks a new epoch in captive sloth bear welfare in India. These bears are the first in Chattishgarh to begin a new life, free from the pain and shame of the degrading profession that formed a part of their daily life.”

Nayer also believes that this handover will benefit other dancing bears in the community.

“We hope that this step will encourage other Kalandars to to join this program,” Nayer said.  “There are some 16 dancing bears in Chattishgarh, most in remote areas, but five more owners have already approached the WTI project to discuss handing over their bears.”

The WTI Project

The ‘Sloth Bear Welfare and Conservation Project‘ is a joint venture of WSPA and WTI. The project's goal is to ensure the phase-out and eventual eradication of dancing bears in India, where about 2000 dancing bears remain despite a government ban on the practice in 1998.

One of the key objectives of the project is to encourage Kalandars to adopt alternative livelihoods.  Earlier this year WTI spent 2 months training Kalandars in Bhopal in how to make products such as detergent, liquid soap and incense sticks.  As a result, 15 dancing bears were handed over to the Forestry Department in Bhopal.

WSPA will continue to fund this program throughout the next few years. Later this year the WTI will train 1000 forest guards to prevent new cubs from being poached for the dancing bear trade.

WSPA has already helped local animal welfare groups in Greece and Turkey to bring an end to the cruel use of dancing bears.

Read more about WSPA‘s work to bring an end to the cruel tradition of dancing bears >>

For more information, please visit the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) website.

Read more news from WSPA Member Societies >>

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