In MP: Poachers’ trap electrocutes endangered sloth bear, NGO rescues her cub | india-news | Hindustan Times
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In MP: Poachers’ trap electrocutes endangered sloth bear, NGO rescues her cub

A seven-year-old sloth bear and her two-month-old cub were electrocuted when they were looking for food in the Sanjay-Dubri Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh’s Sidhi district. The mother succumbed to her injuries, but the male cub has survived.

india Updated: Feb 28, 2017 19:35 IST
Badri Chatterjee
The orphaned cub shortly after its rescue.
The orphaned cub shortly after its rescue.(Wildlife SOS)

A seven-year-old sloth bear and her two-month-old cub were electrocuted when they were looking for food in the Sanjay-Dubri Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh’s Sidhi district. The mother succumbed to her injuries, but the male cub has survived.

Officials from the MP forest department said the sloth bears were caught in a high-voltage trap set up by six poachers from the area’s tribal population who were hunting animals for meat. All six have been arrested for violating the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and are in judicial custody.

The population of sloth bears in the wild has been threatened over the years owing to loss of habitat and poaching. The species is protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act.

The incident took place in the first week of February, when both mother and cub were looking for food at the southern end of the tiger reserve.

“The mother survived the electrocution and we kept her in intensive care, but last week she succumbed to her injuries. The trap paralysed her waist down,” said Dileep Kumar, field director, Sanjay-Dubri Tiger Reserve. “Her cub recovered quickly from the shock and we approached NGO Wildlife SOS for help.”

Kumar said the forest department used sniffer dogs to trace the accused. “The dogs followed the trail from where the poaching incident took place, all the way to the doorstep of the poachers. We found similar equipment from the crime scene at their residence and they confessed to the offence,” he said. “We have increased patrolling across the reserve and set up camera traps across the park to avoid such incidents.”

After the mother’s demise, the chief wildlife warden of the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department issued written orders to transfer the young bear to Wildlife SOS’ Agra Bear Rescue facility in Uttar Pradesh. After completing the required paper work, the cub was transferred on Wednesday. “The male bear is under a lot of trauma and will be kept under constant medical observation,” said Dr Amol Narwade, veterinarian, Wildlife SOS.

Spread across 466 square kilometre area, the Sanjay-Dubri Tiger Reserve has 365 sloth bears, 15 tigers and over 30 free roaming leopards. “We are shocked these poachers resorted to this terrible method and electrocuted this endangered sloth bear,” said Geeta Seshamani, co-founder Wildlife SOS. “It is essential to have such offenders convicted to set an example for others to learn.”

Forest officials demand policy changes

Senior forest officials from MP said poaching incidents had increased over the past two years, especially in the Sidhi district. “We have already written to the chief secretary of MP to implement policy changes under the MP forest act to increase deterrence in such cases. The agricultural department has also been informed to tell the tribal population that hunting animals for meat is a serious offence,” said RP Singh, assistant principal chief conservator of forests (APCCF)-wildlife, Madhya Pradesh forest department.

Sloth bear: Vulnerable and endangered

Sloth bear or the labiated bear is a nocturnal animal native to tall grasslands across India, Sri Lanka, southern Nepal and Bhutan. With a dusty black, shaggy coat and curved claws, the animal can grow up to six feet tall. Known to live up to 25 years, they mostly consume ants, other insects and fruits. The species is marked as ‘Vulnerable’ under International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN)