< Back

In India : exploited for tourism
Printer-friendly version

Tourists to India are regularly approached and invited to watch a street show of "dancing bears". Far from being willing performers, these bears are captured and forced into submitting to their tamers.


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.

Red-hot iron

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 into submission.


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.

Actions by One Voice

Rescue the bears

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.

Inform tourists

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.

Unauthorised reproduction of texts or photos is strictly prohibited

© One Voice