By Resham Beri
New Delhi, 4 July 2013: In a first of its kind, the Uttarh Pradesh Forest Department facilitated the release of a sloth bear in the Suhelwa Wildlife Sanctuary in Eastern Uttarh Pradesh.
Wildlife SOS, with the support of the Uttarh Pradesh Forest Department (UPFD) released the four year old male sloth bear at Suhelwa Wildlife Sanctuary, Uttar Pradesh on Thursday. The bear was rescued by Wildlife SOS, from Shikohabad village, 75 kilometers from the Taj Mahal in Agra in May this year and after providing treatment, care and keepint it under observation for 8 weeks, it was finally released into its natural habitat. This is the first time a sloth bear has been released in the wild in Uttar Pradesh and it marks a very important step towards understanding man-animal conflicct and steps toward mitigating the same.
Dr. Rupak Dey, Chief Wildlife Warden, Uttar Pradesh Forest Department, a visionary forest officer said, “We are concerned about the human wildlife conflict in the state and releasing a wild bear from a conflict situation with a radio collar is a step towards understanding and mitigating such conflict. This project is in collaboration with Wildlife SOS wherein a research team from the NGO will gather data from the bear’s movements and assist the Forest Department in planning strategy for tackling human wildlife conflict. We selected Suhelwa Wildlife Sanctuary as most suitaable habitat as it has rich biodiversity and will also receive the kind of attention it desesrves.”
Expressing his happiness at the succesful release of the sloth bear, Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder, Wildlife SOS said- “This is a milestone achievement for sloth bear conservation in India. Man-animal conflict is on the rise in many states in India and after the release of this bear, Uttar Pradesh is leading the study and I hope many other states will follow soon. We are grateful to Dr. Rupak Dey, Chief Wildlife Warden of Uttar Pradesh for his support toward the cause and issuing all necessary permits for facilitating the releasing of the sloth bear and for the radio collaring.”
A radio collar has been fixed on the bear’s neck, which will help the Wildlife SOS research team and wildlife biologists to monitor the animal’s movements and ranging pattern. Wildlife Biologist of Wildlife SOS Mr. Baiju Raj, who is also the Administrator of the Agra Bear Rescue and Rehabilitation Facility said, “Suhelwa Wildlife Sanctuary is suitable habitat for sloth bears and we hope to understand habitat utilization alongside feeding habits fo the bear through data obtained from the radio collar.”
The wild sloth bear was found stuck in the middle of a dry drain storm and had almost attacked a member of the Wildlife SOS team during the rescue operation. “The bear was in poor health and terribly stressed when our team rescued him. Once the bear was found fit for release, permission were requested from the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department to release the bear in its natural habitat. A team of five veterinarian and four researchers were involved in the radio collaring process, said Dr. Arun A. Sha, Director Veterinary Operations, Wildlife SOS. The field team that released the bear in Suhelwa led by Wildlife SOS vet Dr. Ilayaraja, Wildlife Researcher Mr. Rinesh and a team of about ten officers from U.P. Forest Department and Wildlife SOS.
The bear was housed in a special quarantine area and tested for diseased and infections before being transported in a special vehicle from the Agra Bear Rehabilitation Facility to the Suhelwa Wildlife Sanctuary where it was released in a dense foret area near Razia taal area of the sanctuary which is 120 km long and 5-9 kilometers wide.
Wildlife SOS is grateful to the San Diego Zoo for providing the resources to make the radio collaring of this bear possible.