Thanks to you... Final curtains close on India's cruellest dance

Mar 26, 2013

Let's take a look at a timeline of what your amazing support has helped us achieve:


Cruel chains: A dancing bear kept captive outside its owner’s home.

Your outrage about the miserable treatment of bears around the world inspired the launch of our Libearty campaign. One of Libearty’s first triumphs was a ban on bear dancing in Greece and Turkey and the rehoming of these suffering animals in WSPA-funded sanctuaries.


In response to countless reports from distressed tourists about the plight of dancing bears in India, we funded a survey to investigate exactly how many were being forced to dance.


Early days: In 1997 there were around 1,200 dancing bears mostly in tourist areas - particularly around Agra home of the Taj Mahal.

The survey, conducted by Wildlife SOS (an Indian NGO), found 1,200 bears dancing on India’s streets; most were found in tourist areas. Blindness and other health problems were common. The survey also revealed that around 100 bear cubs were being taken from the wild every year to fuel the industry. Neglect and dehydration caused many deaths before even being sold for dancing. This 'entertainment' was responsible for great suffering and putting India's wild sloth bear population at risk.


We successfully lobbied the Indian government with Wildlife SOS to donate some land near Agra to build a sanctuary in order to save the bears. Thanks to your generous donations and the support of other concerned organizations we were able to design and fund it.


The sanctuary was ready for its first bears and was given to Wildlife SOS to own and manage. Wildlife SOS has since enlarged the sanctuary and today, it is the biggest sloth bear sanctuary in the world.


Raising awareness: WSPA billboards warned tourists of the cruelty of bear dancing.

With your help, we campaigned hard to draw the public’s attention to the cruelty of bear dancing using billboards and posters in tourist hot spots urging people not to watch or give money to dancing bears. We also worked hard with our partner the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) to press the Indian government to enforce the law regarding the protection of bears in the wild and to bring poachers to justice.


Different life: Tammana the daughter of former bear owner Mohammad Sovrati was able to go to school when her father joined our alternative livelihood scheme.

Your generosity helped us develop an alternative livelihoods program through which we persuaded owners give up their bears in exchange for legal ways of earning a living. Farming and rickshaw taxi services are just some of the jobs that 51 former bear owners and one former wildlife trader were doing by the end of 2012.


Good performance: In rural areas, street theatre was an effective way to get our message across.

With WTI we also brought the concept of animal welfare to rural areas — street theatre and games highlighted the cruelty of bear dancing and the risk to India's sloth bear population caused by snatching bears from the wild.


By the end of this year your generosity was enabling us to work with the WTI to train 816 forestry staff and community volunteers in four Indian states in anti-poaching methods to stop the trade at its source. On one momentous occasion in 2011 an anti-poaching volunteer force caught six poachers and helped police bring them to justice.


We were delighted when the survey that we carried out with WTI showed there were only 10-15 bears left and that these were in rural areas in Bihar and Orissa and around the Nepalese border.


Your part in ending the cruelty of bear dancing was recognized by the Indian government in November when it announced the National Bear Conservation and Welfare Action Plan to safeguard bears. The work on the plan was largely funded by WSPA and we were part of the team that helped create it.


Natural life: Sloth bears living freely in the wild.

Nearly 400 bears rescued from lives 'of dancing' are receiving special care and treatment in centres managed by Wildlife SOS, International Animal Rescue and Free the Bears, with the Indian government. Without your fantastic support these bears would not have been given a brighter future.

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Hope for the future

Help WSPA provide safe homes for traumatised bears.

Viorel the bear in a pond at the Romanian sanctuary