Two sloth bears who were being exploited as "dancing bears" were rescued in Nepal with the help of a joint collaboration between Nepal's Jane Goodall Institute, World Animal Protection, and Nepali police.
The rescued sloth bears, a 19-year old male, Rangeela and a 17-year-old female, Sridevi, were traced by tracking their owners' mobile phones and were taken to Amlekhgunj Forest and Wildlife Reserve for treatment.
"We are thrilled that the last two … dancing bears have been rescued from their lifetime of suffering," Manoj Gautam of the Jane Goodall Institute of Nepal, said. "After a year of tracking them, using our own intelligence and in cooperation with local police, our hard effort and dedication has helped to bring an end to this illegal tradition in Nepal."
"Dancing bears" have been used for entertaining people in small towns, villages, for a long time, where the youngling bears are captured and are made to undergo a strenuous and cruel training regime.
Cubs' nose is pierced with a hot needle to thread a rope through which is used to control them. The holes are so large as a lot of pressure is applied from the thick ropes that they never fully heal.
Some of the ways the bears are trained are as severe as dragging the bears onto hot coals to train them to dance for tourists who pay a meager amount for the entertainment.
"Being there in person to help rescue the last known dancing bears in Nepal was surreal,” Neil D’Cruze, global wildlife adviser at World Animal Protection, said, according to National Geographic. "We know that Rangeela and Sridevi were suffering in captivity since they [were] poached from the wild and their muzzles were pierced with hot iron rods."
Mary Hutton, the founder of Australian based Free the Bears, called the trade a "cruel" and "appalling business."
"They are captured as cubs — the mother is usually killed to get to them — and then they are conditioned to behave themselves and obey," Hutton said.
Some of the countries known to have practiced the "dancing bears" trade in the past, include, Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, India, Serbia, Turkey, and Nepal. Pakistan is believed to continue the practice.
"The importance of this recent rescue, along with almost every bear rescue in 2017, is that these cruel animal practices, hidden behind the curtain of culture, are no longer accepted in a contemporary society," says Claire LaFrance, head of communications for the nonprofit Four Paws U.S. told the National Geographic.
"The sad reality is there are more wild animals suffering across the world just to entertain people," Manoj Gautam, the executive director of Jane Goodall Institute Nepal said, National Geographic reported. "However, for these two sloth bears at least, a happy ending is finally in sight."
Insectivorous Sloth bears have shaggy, dusty-black coats with pale, short-haired muzzles; and long, curved claws which they use to excavate termites and ants, and are mostly found in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
Bear species also face other threats like poaching, wildlife traps and destruction of their habitats.