Member society’s dedication saves cubs from bear baiting

Jul 23, 2008

Now safe at Kund Park, this cub was the focus of a multi-stage rescue operation by BRC

WSPA member society Bioresource Research Center (BRC) worked with government wildlife authorities to carry out a daring confiscation in June. Their own safety was threatened as they rescued two bear cubs from poachers in Pakistan.

In the same month, the dangers inherent in their vital work inspired BRC to hold a ceremony applauding the wildlife department field staff that work alongside them; some of whom have been tortured as they protected bear welfare.

Committed to bears: the cubs’ rescue

In early June BRC received information that poachers working for an influential wildlife trader in Peshawar had taken two five-month old cubs from the wild after killing their mother.

BRC’s director Dr. Fakhar–i–Abbas immediately contacted wildlife authorities, with whom they work closely, and a plan of action was formed. The poachers’ house was raided, arrests were made and the bear cubs were confiscated.

But following the successful raid the wildlife trader made attempts to retrieve the cubs from their temporary holding facility. On learning this, BRC moved to transport the cubs to the safety of the Kund Park bear sanctuary.

The trader was persistent. Having discovered the cubs’ destination, he tried to stop BRC’s truck twice on the road, creating a dangerous situation for the staff and animals inside.

But BRC were not to be intimidated: the cubs were safely delivered to Kund Park, where they are in good health.

Jan Schmidt-Burbach, Wildlife Veterinary Programs Officer at WSPA Asia, commented: "WSPA is tremendously proud of the achievements being made to end the cruel 'sport' of bear baiting in Pakistan. Our member society BRC and the government's own wildlife officers face huge personal danger. It takes great courage to help animals in these situations.”

Their courage is paying off. “The campaign to end bear baiting is working“ says Jan. “Formerly there were hundreds of such events taking place in a year; that is now down to a handful. As a result of WSPA-funded efforts, landlords who once organized bear baiting are now convincing others to stop these events."

Hard-earned rewards

This adult bear, rescued by BRC earlier this year, has visible wounds from baiting. The bear nows lives at Kund Park.

Stopping bear baiting in Pakistan is not an easy job. If proof of the necessary commitment were required, it is found in BRC’s frontline workers and government field staff, and the threats they face.

Earlier this year, members of the Sukkur Wildlife Division were kidnapped by powerful provincial landlords as they worked to prevent cruelty to bears. While held hostage, the men were chained and forced to watch bear baiting events close up.

BRC’s ceremony showed their appreciation for the difficulties that these dedicated wildlife protectors have faced and for the great progress they are making. Sukkur is an area of Pakistan with a very high density of bear baiting events, but Wildlife Division staff are making life increasingly difficult for the landlords organizing bear baiting events.

BRC’s director honored Mr. Husain Bukhsh Bhaagat, chief of the wildlife division in Sukkur, and every member of his staff with awards that should help their careers. The field staff promised to keep going despite all the dangers, demonstrating what can only be called exceptional commitment to animal welfare.

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