By Resham Beri
In a joint Anti-poaching operation by Jharkhand Forest Department, police and Wildlife SOS, three young sloth bears belonging to the NAt community were seized from poachers. The bears had been illegally brought to India. Since the bears were seized they have been transferred to our Agra Bear Rescue Facility in Uttar Pradesh which is the largest rehabiliation center in the world for sloth bears.
Initially, the Wildlife SOS anti-poaching and wildlife crime unit called ‘Forestwatch!’ received intelligence that the poachers were hiding in a remote forested are in the Giridih District of Jharkhand. We passed on this intelligence to the ADG (Wildlife) Govt. of India and the PCCF and the Chief Wildlife Warden of Jharkhand Forest Department. They they used the information and provided the personnel to carry out the operation.
It is suspected that the Nats poached the bear cubs from different parts in India (states of uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and orissa) and then hid these cubs in Nepal until they were large enough for sale and then brought them into India to sell them to the Kalandar community. Since the Kalandar community was not willing to buy the bears, the Nats transported these bears to Nepal posing as Kalandars and using them for street dancing along the way. It is suspected that the bears would be slaughtered and their body parts sold off to south east Asian countries for use in traditional Chinese medicine or for delicacies like bear paw soup!
Dr. Rupak De, Chief Wildlife Warden, Uttar Pradesh said, “Our Forest department congratulates everyone involved with the success of this operation. We shall try our best to stop the illegal poaching of wildlife within the state and save the diverse flora and fauna of the country,”
The six hour long anti-poaching operation was carried out using a convoy of six vehicles including a large police van with about twenty police officers in addition to 15 forest officers and Wildlife SOS personnel.
Baiju Raj, Wildlife Biologist and Administrator, Agra Bear Rescue Facility who was present during the entire operation said, “The poachers were caught hiding in Giridih district with the three bears. At one point, it became very difficult for us to control the crowd and take the bears to a safe location. An unruly mob from the Nat community gathered around the poachers to protect them from the police and even tried to torch the police vehicle. It was very challenging to rescue the bears.”
The three bears, two males and one female, were shifted to Bhagwan Birsa Biological Park in Ranchi for immediate treatment. After keeping them there for a 3 day observation period, they were then shifted to the Agra Bear Rescue Facility where they are undergoing extensive treatment for their muzzle wounds.
I am delighted to hear thet the bears could be saved in time and they will now be rehabilitated at the Agra Bear Rescue Facility. I would especially like to thank the Chief Wildlife Warden and PCCF of Jharkhand Government for their support and cooperation in making this operation a success,” said Geeta Seshamani, co-founder of Wildlife SOS.