WSPA-funded research suggests that, at the end of 2009, there are still a small number of bears in India living out their days dragged from village to village ‘dancing’ for audiences.
This number has dropped from 400 to 150 and then lower in recent years, but the remaining bears are enduring a lifetime of physical and mental distress. Illegally poached as cubs, 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.
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.
WSPA is working with the Wildlife Trust of India to tackle both the root and result of the problem, by:
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Visit the Integrated Sloth Bear Conservation and Welfare Project website for more information about WSPA’s work with WTI, or watch how our work developed in film and images >>