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No more dancing on streets

india Updated: Jul 30, 2008 00:10 IST
Zeeshan Shaikh
Zeeshan Shaikh
Hindustan Times
No more dancing on streets

It’s the swansong of the last of Maharashtra’s dancing bears.

The sloth bears, which are captured and tamed by a tribe called Kalandars, will soon be transferred to a sanctuary in Bhopal, thanks to the efforts of Wildlife SOS, a non-profit organisation which runs four bear rescue centres across the country.

So far, the organisation has managed 477 voluntary bear rescues, including 30 in Maharashtra. The last five dancing bears of the state were turned in at Nashik on Sunday.

“Kalandars from Nashik, Ahmednagar and Parbhani districts handed over the bears,” said Snehal Bhavsar of Wildlife SOS.

“These dancing bears, the last of their kind in Maharashtra, will now be transferred to our sanctuary for sloth bears in
Bhopal.”

The organisation coaxed the Kalandars into surrendering the bears to the forest department by paying them a compensation of Rs 50,000 for every animal turned in. “The Kalandars will sign an agreement that they will not take up this illegal form of livelihood. They will be offered a rehabilitation package and the means to take up another profession,” Bhavsar said.

But the Kalandars have mixed feelings. “I love my bear,” said an emotional Jaleel Shaikh of Rouri in Ahmednagar district.

“My way of life will now change, but it makes sense to quit the trade when I have an opportunity.” Jaleel plans to set up a dairy business with the compensation amount.

The Kalandar community generally owns dancing bears and earns their livelihood through them. The Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 banned their use because of their dwindling numbers. It is believed there are no more than 1,700 such bears in India.