WSPA and local partner the Bioresource Research Centre’s (BRC) Alternative Livelihood programme gives bear owners a new, sustainable source of income in exchange for the freedom of their bear and is crucial for bringing an end to bear baiting in Pakistan.
These two lovely bears will join the sixteen current residents of the WSPA funded Balkasar bear sanctuary and live out the remainder of their lives in the beautiful grassed enclosures.
Robin (right), meaning 'love', was given her freedom by her young owner in exchange for a general store.
Gypsy Baratti inherited her from his father and had been using her in baiting to support him and his younger sisters. The bear was on the BRC target list and the team worked hard to gain her freedom.
After the store was completed the BRC team transferred the bear to the sanctuary. Her nose ring was cut away, the rope around her neck removed and her wounds were carefully cleaned. She is now in quarantine until her health has improved and she can be released into the main enclosure with the other bears.
Yarrow (right), meaning 'healing', was used extensively in baiting by her owner, Taaj Muhammad.
After several visits the BRC team convinced her owner to give her freedom in exchange for a general store.
She was then transferred carefully to the sanctuary. On arrival her nose ring was cut away and her wounds were cleaned and dressed. The BRC team tell us after waking she appeared to be moving freely without her binding chains.
WSPA and BRC Alternative Livelihood programme
Since our partnership with the BRC began in 1997, together we have reduced the number of bears being used in the brutal ‘sport’ of baiting to around 50. A key part of our success has been the alternative livelihood (AL) programme run by dedicated BRC staff.
Using the experience WSPA gained from working to phase out dancing bears in India, we’ve worked with BRC to create an alternative livelihood programme specific for Pakistan. As keeping a bear is not illegal everywhere in Pakistan and legal enforcement is often insufficient, the AL programme seeks to provide an incentive to the bear owner to voluntarily surrender the bear.
Bear owners and their families often depend completely on the income brought in by the bear fighting in matches, making any exchange a sensitive process that requires many months of discussions to build trust and eventually carry out an exchange.
Cash is never given in exchange for a bear. Instead, the AL team help a bear owner choose an alternative profession with the aim of providing him and his family with a steady and sustainable source of income.
We then provide specific training to help ensure the success of the business and closely monitor the ex-owner for at least two years to make sure he does not re-engage with owning a bear. Incentives, such as education for children, are also offered after a certain period to further reduce the risk of re-offending.
The AL programme is costly and time-consuming work for BRC and WSPA, but the success of the overall work clearly shows it is the only sustainable and humane solution to protecting bears and ending this practice for good.