Raju, the sloth bear, is one of over 600 bears that have been rescued from a life of torture where they were forced to dance and perform on the streets of India.
Take a look at this heartbreaking video of Raju’s story …
Sloth bears are a smaller species of bear, measuring up to about 5 feet tall and weighing an average of 250 pounds. They have a long black coat and lighter hair on their snout and chest. In the wild, they can live up to 20 years but in captivity, they rarely make it past eight.
Unfortunately, sloth bears have been a popular species to use in the cruel “dancing bear” trade, where they are trained and forced to perform in front of human audiences. The trade has a long history dating back to ancient times and currently is mostly practiced in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
The performing bears are poached from the wild as cubs, often requiring the killing of their mother. It’s not uncommon for the cubs to die from shock, neglect, or dehydration … But if they survive, they are sold to trainers.
The trainers then use cruel tactics to get the cubs to perform. Sticks are used to get them to stand and perform tricks. The poor bears’ teeth and nails are removed to prevent them from fighting back … And a permanent hole is bored through their snout so that trainers can run a rope through and control them. The rope is pulled to get the bears to move, causing incredible pain.
The dancing bear trade also has a history in Europe. One known training method there involved greasing the bears’ paws and then having them stand on hot plates while music played. This would force the bears to hop to avoid the pain. After a while, the bears would associate the movement to the music and it would give an illusion of them dancing.
Because the dancing bear trade is an old cultural tradition it has been difficult to stop. The people involved with this barbaric practice are very poor and have no other means to provide for their families.
Thanks to caring people at organizations like Wildlife Trust of India, Wildlife SOS, World Society for the Protection of Animals, and International Animal Rescue, there is a cultural shift happening amongst the tribes that have been doing it for so long. These people are given training and resources to make a new start and they’re getting involved with whole new trades such as welding and the production of soaps and incense.
In exchange, the bears are surrendered to sanctuaries where they are given medical care, food, and a safe home. Unfortunately, most of the bears don’t have the skills or instincts to survive in the wild anymore, so they’ll have to stay in the sanctuaries for the rest of their lives.
At Karmagawa and SaveTheReef, we’re heartbroken that there are animals that go through this type of torture. We are happy, though, that more and more animals are getting rescued through these creative means. It’s important to tell people these stories so that we can change the minds of people who don’t know that this type of cruelty is happening around the world.
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What do you think about the torture these bears have endured so that tourists can see them dance? Leave a comment below.
(Cover image: PhotocechCZ/Shutterstock)