The cruel practice of dancing bears was made illegal in India in 1972. However, in the decades that followed sloth bears were still caught from the wild and beaten and mutilated to force them to dance. A nomadic tribe called the Kalandars used the bears to entertain villagers and tourists who would pay to watch the bear ‘dance’ while in tremendous pain. A red hot poker would be driven through the muzzle of the bear, often a baby, with no anaesthetic, and a coarse rope would be strung through the wound left behind. The rope would then be tugged and yanked to produce a ‘dance’ and for many bears over the years, this is the only existence they knew.
With the help of our partners Wildlife SOS, we have rescued over 620 dancing bears from this cruel trade and in 2009 we rescued the very last one. The sanctuaries in India currently care for 300 bears where we provide a lasting home for them to live out their days in peace.