Members of the Kalandars clan are believed to exploit over 1,200
sloth bears in this way, a throwback to a sixteenth-century tradition
when they would travel from village to village, showing bears
to earn a living. In 1972, India's Wildlife Protection Act made
illegal the trade of bears, while a second law outlawed the methods
used to train them. And still it continues…
One Voice commissioned a photographer to investigate the situation.
His eye-witness account and photos provide valuable information
on the conditions in which the bears are captured and held captive,
and on the life awaiting them.
The poachers wait until the she-bear leaves the den in search
of food to capture a new-born cub. She-bears who, alerted by the
young animal's cries, try to defend their cubs pay with their
life. The cub is drugged with opium and transported for hours
in a bag. Many die during this ordeal.
The surviving cubs are sold to the Kalandars. At the age of three
months, a red-hot iron rod is used to pierce the sensitive muzzle.
A thick rope is then inserted through this hole and out of the
bear's nose. This barbaric mutilation is performed without anaesthetic.
The wound never heals due to constant friction from the rope.
This rope will be the means by which the Kalandars force the bear
The only way the bear can attempt to relieve the pain it feels
when the trainer tugs on the rope is to stand on its hind legs
and perform whatever movements are demanded. Through constant
blows to its nose wound and paws, the bear learns to sway from
side to side to the sound of a beating drum.
Teeth and claws are pulled
To prevent the bear from defending itself, at the age of two its
teeth are wrenched out and its jaw may be broken. Its claws are
pulled out and sometimes even its toes are sliced. The torture
continues when the bears are castrated, again with no anaesthetic.
Hunger and disease
During the stifling hot summer months, the bear is forced to walk
20 to 30 kilometres a day along the roads of Agra, Jaipur and
New Delhi, from one village to the next. Its paws are covered
in wounds, which like the others are left to fester. The underfed
bears lack nourishment to the point where some go blind. Inevitably,
hunger, ill-treatment and disease take their toll: most of these
bears die before they are eight years old.
by One Voice
Since December 2002, One Voice and its Indian partner Wildlife SOS, and also Free the Bears and International Animal Rescue, run a sanctuary 20 kilometres from Agra, in collaboration with the government of the province of Utta Pradesh in the Agra region where most of the bears are.
The bears are either handed over voluntarily or confiscated by
the police. The Kalandars are offered help in finding an alternative
way to make a living, financed by a British organisation. One
Voice and its partners will ensure that no Kalandar takes on another
bear. The ultimate goal is that dancing bears should become a
thing of the past in India.
One Voice is in contact with the many French travel agencies that
organise trips to India. We explain the bears' suffering and the
illegal nature of these "performances" and ask them
to inform their customers of this, so that tourists then stop
giving money to the Kalandars who dance bears.
How you can help
• Distribute leaflets and gather signatures to save the
bears in China, India and Pakistan.
• If you know any travel agents, take them a copy of our
leaflet on Indian "dancing bears", explain the illegal
and immoral nature of these performances. Ask them to pass this
essential information on to their customers.