Sunday 18 August 2019

These feet had to stop dancing: The trauma experienced by dancing bears - Soch: Column by Dr. Arshiya Sethi

Continuing with the undesirable practices of dancing animals, we must refer to an ancient practice, of making bears “dance” which has a long history and was once widely spread in Europe and Asia. Today, though the practice got banned several years ago, till recently the last vestiges survived, mostly in countries of the Indian subcontinent, including India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal. On December 19, 2017, the last dancing bear in this region was rescued, bringing to an end a terrible practice of cruelty and torture. When the Nepalese bear couple, Rangile and Sridevi were recovered, they bore severe signs of the trauma that they had undergone. 

Almost invariably the bears are exploited by very poor people who have few economic options, and even less awareness of conservation needs. That is why several critically endangered species of bears were found in the bear dancing business. Among them were the critically endangered Himalayan Brown bear (Ursos arctos isabellinus), the vulnerable Asiatic Black bear (Ursus thibetanus laniger) and the vulnerable sloth bear (Melursus ursinus), of which only some 8,000 exist in the wild. It is important to note that in the wild a sloth bear can live more than 20 years. In captivity, however, a dancing bear rarely lives past the age of 7 or 8 years.

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