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The dancing bear of Wildlife SOS

Over 29 leopards, 600 bears and some members of Indian tribes are living a better life this year.

entertainment Updated: Feb 06, 2010 20:34 IST
Prema K Prema K

Established in 1995, Wildlife SOS (WSOS) has been dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating wild animals in their natural habitat in India for over 15 years. And recently, it rescued 29 leopards through its poaching division called the Forest Watch. 24 informers across India are employed on a full-time basis.

The team is involved with wildlife surveillance and intelligence gathering, and is constantly on the look out for lawbreakers and wildlife criminals.

The team informs them and then they send a decoy who tries to bring them out of their areas. “When we see them with their contraband, we strike. Like tigers, leopards too are on the brink of extinction. They are poached for their body parts that are used in traditional Chinese medicines,” explains Kartick Satyanarayan, the co-founder of WSOS, whose helpline in Delhi urges people who find snakes in their homes to treat them well instead of panicking.

Great efforts are also being made on a regular basis to rescue dancing bears and conserve the endangered Sloth Bear in the wild. “We’d been working on it since 1995. Just last year, we managed to put an end to this barbaric tradition of poaching cubs from the wild,” says Kartick. “These bears were trained to dance for tourists by using brutal and inhuman training methods.”

WSOS, that has centres in Agra, Bhopal, West Bengal and Bangalore was on a mission to rescue and rehabilitate the dancing bears and, so far, over 600 bears have regained a life of liberty and dignity in the four rescue centers.

The Kalandar tribe, who depended on the bears for their livelihood, is being rehabilitated with financial assistance, education and health care — to help them enter mainstream society. Their gypsy tribes were provided with alternative means of earning and economic empowerment for their women.

“We believe that the most successful way to stop poaching of sloth bears and cubs was by providing the Kalandars with a better and more stable form of income,” says Kartick. In addition, WSOS is working with several private and government organisations towards biodiversity conservation – mitigation of man animal conflicts.

In its efforts to garner public support, it roped in Abhay Deol as its brand ambassador. An encounter with Abhay at the TED conference in November set the ball rolling, says Kartick. “We hit it off well and discussed wildlife problems. He’s straightforward and understands the issues. His films discuss the realities of life seriously. We needed someone like that because conservation of real life is a serious matter. We also wanted someone who was passionate about wildlife.”

An art exhibition called Rare Bears Art, is also being planned where rescued bears will walk over a canvas with paint on their feet after which famous artists will be invited to paint around the pug marks to produce limited edition paintings. Kartick adds, “We’ll get Abhay Deol to paint on some of the canvases too. He also plans to speak to producers of his films to give WSOS a small time slot in his film to talk about wildlife conservation, to sensitise his fans to animal conservation.”