For over 400 years the Indian Sloth Bear (Melursus Ursinus) cubs have been poached from the wild and brutally trained to be used as ‘dancing bears’ by the members of a nomadic gypsy tribe called the Kalandars. Their Kalandar owners would drive a red hot poker rod through the muzzle of the baby bear and a metal ring or rope would then be strung through the painful piercing. Their teeth would be smashed with a metal rod to prevent them from attacking their owners and often the claws would be pulled out. Over the years, Wildlife SOS has been instrumental in rescuing and rehabilitating over 600 abused sloth bears all across India and ensuring they live out the rest of their lives in peace and freedom at the four rescue centres run by Wildlife SOS in collaboration with the Forest Departments.
Most of our rescued sloth bears have been subjected to the painful trauma of having their teeth broken. These stubs were left untreated by the negligent owners, leading to severe dental infections due to exposed roots, rotting teeth and mouth ulcerations leading to halitosis (foul breath). More importantly, the entire health of the bear was severely compromised by the resultant bacterial infections. The chronic pain kept the bears grumpy and quarrelsome by temperament.
Over the years, our team of dedicated veterinarians has been able to provide expert care for our bears by doing root canal surgeries, tooth extractions and dental cleanings, as well as treating them for mouth infections and ulcers. Trained by expert veterinarians from UK who visited the Agra Bear Rescue Facility nearly a decade ago the Wildlife SOS vets found that the dental surgery gave great relief to the suffering bears, in most cases changing their temperament remarkably and making them healthier and more active.
After 8 years the same team of veterinarians were about to visit to check on the progress made by the bears whose lives had been made so much happier by these dental surgeries. This trip as the earlier one was facilitated by International Animal Rescue (IAR), UK our partner in this enterprise. The visiting team was represented by Dr. Lisa Milella, Dr. Paul Cassar, Dr. Aurora Mateo and a team of vet nurses. The Wildlife SOS team was represented by, Dr. Arun A. Sha, Dr. Illayaraja, Dr. Yaduraj, Dr. Vikram Sharma, Dr Rashmi Gokhale, and Dr. Pushpinder Singh.
The Wildlife SOS and IAR teams worked in a hectic week long session during which 19 surgeries were done, amongst them several root canal surgeries and tooth extractions as well as complete dental checkups were done of about 30 bears in the facility. The various dental problems resulted not only from their former mistreatment but also due to the wear and tear caused over the years. Some bears had multiple problems such as Prabhu, one of our older bears who was diagnosed with acute gingivitis (swelling of the gums) and had to go through three canine extractions as his mouth infections were quite severe. Wildlife SOS is grateful to International Animal Rescue for having made this possible as this program contributed immensely to the well-being of the bears.
The visiting vets from UK shared their expertise with great generosity, thereby enabling our vets to continue rendering expert service to the bears in our care. They had also brought along advanced digital dental radiography machines and surgical equipments which had our vets in ecstasies.
This collaborative initiative proved to be a success as both teams worked hand in hand to provide the best medical treatment for our lovely bears and it was also a great opportunity for them to share their varied views and approaches on how to implement future treatments and surgeries.
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