Ramesh Munda with Rani, the 18-month-old sloth bear. Picture courtesy: People for Animals (Orissa)
Cuttack, June 9: Activists of People for Animals (PFA) in Orissa have been seeking immediate rescue of a sloth bear being bred in captivity by a tribal man in Ghatagaon.
Eighteen-month-old Rani with her shaggy black coat and a hint of a smile is now under the care of Ramesh Munda at Rutisila village.
Activists fear that the bear would be initiated into the trade of exhibitions and shows and have insisted that wildlife officers rescued her before its too late.
Also, keeping sloth bears in captivity is a violation of animal protection law, said animal rights activist J.B. Das, also a secretary of PFA.
The protection of sloth bear in India is covered under the Schedule-I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a bear specialist group, has identified sloth bears as the most vulnerable of all species and threatened with extinction.
The tribal owner is apparently initiating Rani into the show trade by taking her around in his cycle and exhibiting her in villages and fairs, Das, who is also the secretary of People for Animal (PFA) in Orissa, told The Telegraph today.
A sloth bear (which is what Rani is) is listed in the Appendix-I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) as a species that cannot be traded commercially.
PFA has urged the wildlife authorities to rescue Rani before she becomes a victim to malnutrition and stress.
We wrote to the chief wildlife warden two weeks ago, but no tangible steps were taken, the activist rued.
Sources said chief wildlife warden B.K. Patnaik had issued directions to the Keonjhar wildlife division for necessary action. Keonjhars assistant forest conservator had since then reported that Ramesh Munda is absconding.
PFA, however, has a different story. When I visited the area to check on Rani, Ramesh Munda conceded that the wildlife officers came and returned after seeing Rani, Das claimed.
The sloth bear is found in forest areas of Sri Lanka, India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, India and Nepal. Loss of habitat and illegal poaching for the animal trade had taken a heavy toll on the species. Their estimated population in the wild has declined to 10,000.