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Controversy over pet sloth bear

Ramesh Munda’s family has run into trouble over domesticating a sloth bear with the wildlife activists saying it is illegal, reports Soumyajit Pattnaik.
Hindustan Times | By Soumyajit Pattnaik
UPDATED ON JUN 09, 2008 10:39 PM IST

Eighteen-month-old Rani is an integral part of Ramesh Munda’s family. She accompanies Munda to the market, plays with his three-year-old daughter, sleeps with the family and guards the house in their absence. Rani, of course, is no ordinary creature. She is a sloth bear who has been domesticated.

Munda is a resident of Rutisila village under Ghatagaon block of Keonjhar district, nearly 150-km away from the state capital. According to Munda, when Rani was barely two-month-old, he discovered her in the forest where he had gone to get firewood. “I did not bring her to my home, but she followed me,” Munda said. And now Rani is part and parcel of the Munda family.

Wildlife activists are, however, not impressed by Munda’s justification to keep Rani at his home. Jeeban Das, secretary of the Orissa chapter of People for Animals has already written to the chief wildlife warden of the state to rescue the bear.

Das told Hindustan Times, “A sloth bear is a schedule-I animal as per wildlife protection Act 1972. The person who has been in possession of the bear, is earning his livelihood by exhibiting the bear. He is also not able to feed the bear properly. It is the duty of wildlife division to make the tribals aware of the Wildlife Act so that they will not keep any wild animal, which is illegal.”

However, the entire Rutisila village is with the Munda family.

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