Dancing bears

A sloth bear dancing with rope through the muzzle, Pakistan

WSPA-funded research suggests over 400 bears in India are living out their days dragged from village to village "dancing" for audiences.

Illegally poached as cubs, dancing bears endure a lifetime of physical and mental distress. Even their most basic needs, such as adequate nutrition, are not met.

Each young bear will suffer the piercing of their nose or palate. A rope is passed through the raw wound. Tugging on it remains an effective means of control throughout the bear’s life.

Years of conditioning allows owners to make adult bears "dance" on command.

Illegal and inhumane, yet the dancing continues

The Kalandars – India’s traditional dancing bear owners – use the bear shows to support large family groups. The profession is historically passed from father to son, so other opportunities are not often considered.

Public campaigning against the practice has significantly reduced the number of dancing bears on India’s main tourist trails. But the semi-nomadic Kalandars have taken their shows to more receptive areas.

The capture and keeping of bears is prohibited, yet dancing bear shows find rural audiences. People in these areas, where animal welfare education is rare, are unlikely to report dancing bears to the authorities.

Forestry officials may be prevented from enforcing animal protection laws due to a lack of facilities to house confiscated animals.

Stamping out cruelty

WSPA is working with the Wildlife Trust of India to tackle both the root and result of the problem, by:

  • Helping Kalandars find new cruelty free ways to earn a living.
  • Running welfare-awareness work to educate tourists and the public.
  • Training forest guards to stop more cubs being captured and forced to dance.
  • Providing a large forested sanctuary for confiscated bears.

Please support us. With your help, WSPA can prevent more animals from living miserable and painful lives.

Visit Integrated Sloth Bear Conservation and Welfare Project for more information about WSPA’s work with WTI.

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