Rejoice, animal lovers. The last two known “dancing bears” in Nepal have been rescued from lives of sadness and pain.
Bears become “dancing bears” after would-be showmen capture or purchase cubs. Those young bears are stolen from their mothers, and from that point forward, they’ll never again live as a wild bear should.
Instead, their captors remove their teeth and shove a hot rod through their noses, piercing it so a chain or rope can be run through the hole. The owners tug on that tether to control the bears throughout their entire lives. Using fear and pain, the captors train the cubs to dance on their hind legs for the enjoyment of paying customers.
Using dancing bears for entertainment has been illegal in Nepal since 1973. Nevertheless, the practice continued in more remote areas in southern Nepal until it was slowly eradicated — thanks to the efforts of dedicated animal activists and conservation organizations.
The last Nepali bears were rescued on December 19, 2017. World Animal Protection, in cooperation with the Jane Goodall Institute of Nepal and local Nepali police, tracked the captors of two sloth bears — 19-year-old Rangila and 17-year-old Sridevi — for more than a year.
They proved difficult to find, but modern technology finally foiled Rangila and Sridevi’s captors. Authorities were able to pinpoint their location using mobile phone signals. The captors were making the bears perform in the the Rautahat district near the border with India.
“We are thrilled that the last two known Nepali dancing bears have been rescued from their lifetime of suffering… our hard effort and dedication has helped to bring an end to this illegal tradition in Nepal,” said Manoj Gautam of the Jane Goodall Institute of Nepal.
According to World Animal Protection, when they recovered Rangila and Sridevi, the bears “were extremely distressed and showed signs of psychological trauma such as cowering, pacing and paw sucking.”
It’s not difficult to understand why. No doubt captured as innocent youngsters, they’d spent nearly two decades being treated with cruel abandon by men hoping to make money from their desperate performances. Surely all they wanted was to be left in peace. Instead,the bears felt the constant fear and pressure of having to perform to the satisfaction of their captors.
‘It’s extremely distressing to see animals being stolen from the wild, and the sad reality is there are more wild animals suffering across the world, purely for the entertainment of tourists,” said World Animal Protection wildlife expert Neil D’Cruze. “I am pleased that for these two sloth bears a happy ending is finally in sight.”
The only sour note in this happy rescue story is that Mohammad Salman and Mohammad Momtaz, the bears’ captors, got away with nothing more than a “stern warning” from authorities. That’s not much retribution for two decades of torment for these poor bears.
It’s time to look forward, now. Initially, Rangila and Sridevi will spend some time recovering from their ordeal at Nepal’s Parsa National Park. Their rescue brings to a close a sad and shameful tradition that should have died out long ago.
Thanks to the persistence of organizations like World Animal Protection, dancing bears no longer exist in Greece, Turkey, India and now Nepal. Soon,the practice may be eradicated in Pakistan as well.
Rangila and Sridevi can live the remainder of their lives in the happiness and peace of a sanctuary. For them, that’s the best new year’s gift there could ever be.
This article was first published by Care2.com on 01 Jan 2018.