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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2584

Street Elephant Welfare Project Launched by Wildlife SOS

The highly successful dancing bear rescue organization Wildlife SOS India has just launched a new street elephant rescue programme.

Illegally caught captive elephants in India are estimated to number more than 5000.

Delhi is one of the most populated and polluted cities in the world, where 40 of these elephants are subjected to terrible living and "working" conditions.

Exploited for entertainment, celebrations, tourism and even advertising, most of these obedient animals have to deal with walking several kilometers on hot tarmac each day while being treated inhumanely by their owners. Cruel, painful disciplinary methods are used on the elephants such as pins through their toenails and anklet chains with spikes.

The Wildlife SOS Elephant Welfare Project aims to rehabilitate these elephants in a similar manner to their successful bear programme. They will also train the "mahouts" (elephant owners) to treat the elephants humanely and with compassion. Wildlife SOS will also monitor the trading of the elephants and microchip them, which will curb the frequency of illicit transfer between street entertainers across India.

Meanwhile, dancing bear rescue continues with Wildlife SOS who recently celebrated the rescue and rehabilitation of the last dancing bear from the area around the Taj Mahal.

Historically, the tradition of bear dancing was created by people called Qalanders who entertained in the royal palaces of India. Today, around 800 dancing bears are still performing on popular tourist trails across the country. Although this barbaric practice is now banned by the Wildlife Protection Act, various socio-economic and political factors have made the illegal "entertainment" hard to monitor.

Street entertainers buy Sloth Bear cubs from poachers and train them to dance and respond to commands. Beating with crude tools of pain, along with starvation, forces the bear to "behave".

From the beginning, the young bears are subjected to horrific acts of cruelty.

An iron rod is driven through their muzzle (without anesthesia), and a rope and harness are attached. Because the muzzle never heals, due to constant tugging, it often gets infested with maggots. The bear’s canine teeth are also knocked out with a metal rod. All of these bears will die prematurely, due to disease and malnutrition. Blindness usually accompanies their short and dismal lives.

Qalandar Training Schools have been started up by Wildlife S.O.S This part of a great innovative program which attacks the root of the problem and ultimately results in protection of the sloth bear in the wild, while helping the bear owners into new vocations. Qalanders are trained in new skills like carpet making, sari embroidery and tailoring. The retraining programme also integrates education for children of the Qalanders.

Geeta Seshamani, Co-Founder of Wildlife S.O.S, is very enthusiastic about the program and says, “The training schools are creating vocational alternatives for these Bear Dancers who often resorted to these livelihoods because of desperation that resulted from both poverty and the lack of education.”

UK based Looking-Glass and VeggieGlobal are running a support programme for Wildlife SOS India to encourage European based sponsorship and public interest at ---

Visit:

1. http://wildlifesos.com

2 www.looking-glass.co.uk/animals/wildlifesos.htm

- Asian Tribune -

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