Does the phrase “Dancing Bears” ring any bells? While many of you may know what dancing bears are, for those who don’t know, let me assure you that it’s not like bears doing a celebratory dance; it’s quite the opposite, where extreme pain is inflicted upon the bears, they are beaten, mutilated and forced to dance. Rings are put through their highly sensitive noses and jaws; while, their teeth and claws are removed. Trainers pull the rings and in fear of pain, the bears raise their paws and jump. This is what the trainers call “dance”.
The malpractice of ‘dancing bears’ was prevalent in India since ancient times, until it was made illegal in 1972 by the government of India. However, it still continued to be practised at large in many parts of rural India, particularly in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
An organisation worked days and nights relentlessly to achieve their objective of eradicating the practice of dancing bears. Wildlife SOS, a non-profit organisation, has been able to put an end to this 400-year-old practice and took the last performing dancing bears off the streets of India by the year 2009. After years of hard work, they have rescued over 1,200 sloth bears and have provided them with permanent shelter and necessary care.
Inception of Wildlife SOS
In 1995, Geeta Seshamani and Kartick Satyanarayan founded the organisation to create a platform for the protection of wildlife. For generations, different communities of people have exploited wild animals by hunting, poaching and making them sources of entertainment. Wildlife SOS wanted to create a sustainable solution to the human-wildlife conflict. The organisation headquartered in New Delhi is now actively working in 13 states across India, protecting animals from cruelty and distress. But this is not all, they are equally working with people and communities offering them a better life and impart them knowledge about conservation of animals.
Rescue of animals
In an exclusive interview with The Logical Indian, Mr Kartick Satyanarayan told us that in the last two decades, Wildlife SOS has rescued over 50,000 wild animals in the country including birds, reptiles and mammals. They have different rehabilitation centres for bears, elephants, tigers, leopards and primates. They have rescued 26 elephants so far held in illegal custody by people and many from circuses. The organisation is also helping circus owners rehabilitate elephants. Every single day, they get calls regarding wild animals infiltrating in human colonies. They go and rescue the animal from these places. In a year, they get around 3,000 such phone calls.
Rehabilitation of people
Wildlife SOS has not only rehabilitated animals but has also been able to rehabilitate those people whose livelihood was dependent on showing recreational acts with animals. They have rehabilitated the lives of almost 3,500 people from the Kalandar community, who were once dependent upon the dancing bears. Vocational training, education, mechanical works, bank accounts and many other amenities have been provided to them, so that they can earn their livelihood and lead a better life. Many of them have now become small-scale entrepreneurs. Also, about 40 per cent of these people have joined as staffs of Wildlife SOS. Their children are also being sent to schools. Today Wildlife SOS is taking care of hundreds of people — giving them employment, training, seed funds to start something new.
In recent times, Wildlife SOS has been closely working with the forest department, police and the CBI to track down wildlife criminals and poachers. The human-wildlife conflict in India is still a major issue. Wildlife SOS wants to mitigate the conflict, creating awareness among people, helping afforestation and expanding anti-poaching campaigns.
They are asking for your help to volunteer with them and help to spread the message of wildlife sustainability. To report any activities related to wildlife you can call Wildlife SOS in the following hotline numbers.
Delhi NCR: + 91 9871963535
Agra: +91 9917190666
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