Who ended dancing bear acts in India?
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2013:
I just wanted to thank you for setting the record straight in your November/December 2012 Watchdog page article “Wildlife SOS ended dancing bear acts in India, but WSPA claims credit.”
I was in India during the 21st International Conference on Bear Research and Management in New Delhi, and I can’t tell you how dejected International Animal Rescue, Free The Bears, and of course Wildlife SOS cofounders Kartick Satyanarayan and Geeta Seshamani were with regards to the World Society for the Protection of Animals shamelessly trying to position themselves as the organization that solved the problem. I don’t know that people were shocked because this fit into a pattern; however, people felt really downtrodden, realizing that WSPA had their marketing wheels in motion trying to rewrite history. Thanks for making it harder for them to take full credit.
Although I am not with Kartick and Geeta right now, I know it means a lot to them to feel that they have your strong voice trying to keep the facts straight.
––Nikki Sharp, Wildlife SOS USA
406 East 300 South, #302
Salt Lake City, UT 84111
Your article “Wildlife SOS ended dancing bear acts in India, but WSPA claims credit” exposed the ugly lies of the World Society for the Protection of Animals, and brought the truth to the surface. We admire your investigative journalism.
––Kartick Satyanarayan, Cofounder, Wildlife SOS
D-210 Defence Colony, New Delhi 110024, India
Free The Bears
From the beginning of 2002, working very closely with Wildlife SOS, Free the Bears provided seed money to give to Kalandar people so they can develop another form of income, instead of parading “dancing” bears on the roads of India. Their bears were then surrendered into the care of Wildlife SOS and taken into a sanctuary.
Funds have also been raised and given to Wildlife SOS to provide the necessary infrastructure to build night dens, swimming pools, and climbing platforms to give the bears both mental and physical enrichment.
International Animal Rescue has also been involved in the Kalandar Rehabilitation Program, providing training in many different occupations so the Kalandar men and women are now able to earn a new form of income for their families. People for Animals founder Maneka Gandhi also helped raise funds for the bears, on a speaking tour of Australia.
Raising over $1 million Australian dollars, and rescuing over 500 “dancing” bears, while just 38 were rescued by other organizations, Free The Bears together with International Animal Rescue and Wildlife SOS on December 18, 2009 brought this sad and cruel trade to an end when Raju, the very last known “dancing” bear, was taken into the Bannerghatta sanctuary near Bangalore. It took seven years of hard work, campaigning for every single dollar, to achieve this.
Raju has now been rehabilitated, and along with other bears we rescued, enjoys a much improved life.
I was at the original Wildlife SOS sanctuary in Agra to see the first 25 bears come in on Christmas Day 2002, and witnessed Raju’s arrival at the Bannerghatta sanctuary.
––Mary Hutton, Founder & chairperson
Free The Bears P.O. Box 1393, Osborne Park, Western Australia
Wildlife Trust of India is “doing conservation”
More than 12 dancing bears are roaming between India and Nepal. Wildlife SOS is fully aware about this, but with the knowledge that dancing bears are still there in the streets, they announced that they have taken out the last dancing bear from the street.
I worked with Wildlife SOS for three years and was part of many dancing bear rescue operations. I later joined the Wildlife Trust of India and continued working on the bear dancing issue. You seems to feel that WTI has done nothing to stop the bear dancing, but this is not correct. Just few minutes back I received an update from a field team which provides protection to sloth bear dens during the winter season, when there are cubs in the den. The protection team are ex-poachers who used to supply cubs to bear dancers. One of the major task in controlling the trade was to stop the cub trade. Wildlife SOS never bothered about doing this, and were busy rescuing bears from the street. We have been doing this den protection for the last four years and successfully stopped any bear cub poaching from an area which was the major bear cub trade in the past. I personally met the three major bear cub traders and ensured that they don’t get involved in the trade again and used their old networks to monitor bear dens during winter. I have personally walked with bear cub poachers who told me that every year they used to poach 30-40 cubs from the forests and kill a few adult bears.
Also a good number of Kalandars were rehabilitated by the World Society for the Protection of Animals/WTI project. A detailed report is available from WTI. Yes, Wildlife SOS does run the rehabilitation centre for sloth bears, but what WTI is doing is more conservation-based work, not just animal wel-fare. Conservation efforts depends on various factors. But, an animal going back to the wild is much better than a hundred animals spending their lifetime in rehabilitation centers.
––Jose Louies, Regional Head, Peninsular India, Wildlife Trust of India
F-13, Sector 8, Noida, Uttar Pradesh 201301, India
The Editor responds:
Nepalese reports document Wildlife SOS taking in at least fifteen dancing bears of Nepalese origin since 2006, including eight from within Nepal in 2010. We are unaware of the World Society for the Protection of Animals and Wildlife Trust of India rescuing even one dancing bear from Nepal.
Hidden camera video of Wildlife SOS cofounder Kartick Satyanarayan’s undercover work against bear poachers and smugglers has often aired on Indian television, including coverage of four raids that rescued 15 cubs from locations in Odisha, Karnataka, and Maharashtra states in early 2005, only days after Satyanarayan returned from leading post-Indian Ocean tsunami animal relief efforts in Tamil Nadu and the Andaman Islands.
WSPA and WTI claim to have helped 46 Kalendar families to leave the dancing bear trade. Initiating this approach three years before WSPA and WTI began to use it, Free The Bears, International Animal Rescue, and Wildlife SOS have helped more than 500 Kalendar families to give up the dancing bear business.
WSPA and WTI claim to have returned 30 rescued bears to the wild, after years of failures in which bears who lacked wild survival knowledge either died or disappeared. More than 400 bears, few if any of whom could have survived in the wild, meanwhile enjoy high quality of life at the Wildlife SOS sanctuaries in Agra, Bhopal, and Bannerghatta.