New Delhi/Ranchi, Sept. 24: Three sloth bears smuggled from Nepal by poachers and dramatically rescued from Giridih forests recently by Jharkhand police and foresters based on a tip-off from a Delhi NGO have bared the state’s stunning lack of awareness on the endangered species.
Delhi NGO Wildlife SOS, tracking down the bears aged between nine and 36 months from the Indo-Nepalese border to Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand, tipped off security forces about where the poachers had brought them. Three poachers from the Nat community were arrested in the six-hour operation on September 13.
“They had rings nailed on muzzles that had pus. We gave them antibiotics. We kept them under observation till September 17 before handing them back to the Delhi NGO,” said Birsa zoo vet Ajay Kumar about the trio now getting treated for muzzle wounds at Wildlife SOS Agra Bear Rescue Facility.
“Nats may have poached bear cubs, hid them in Nepal till they were big enough for sale and brought them to India. Else, bears would have been slaughtered and body parts sold off to Southeast Asian countries,” said Geeta Seshamani, co-founder of Wildlife SOS.
Sloth bears (Melursus ursinus) have been captured and trained for centuries as dancing and performing animals, an activity banned by Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972. The species is poached for body parts such as gall bladder, penis, bones and bile to prepare Southeast Asian traditional medicines, aphrodisiacs and a delicacy called the bear paw soup.
Wildlife Trust of India says of the 15,000 sloth bears across the country, 10 per cent are in Jharkhand. But, the state forest department doesn’t have figures. State chief wildlife warden A.K. Mishra conceded they didn’t have a bear conservation programme.
Palkot sanctuary, Gumla, is known for sloth bears. Areas such as Hazaribagh, Giridih, Dumka, Lapung (Ranchi) and West Singhbhum are other habitats. “Our field studies indicate poaching in Gumla and Hazaribagh. Crimes against the bear are reported from across the state. But we are yet to get any figure from the department,” Nayem Akhtar, Central Zoo Authority scientist told The Telegraph last year.
Giridih DFO Smitha Pankaj couldn’t be reached for her comments.