The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Food from home for caged bear

Bhubaneswar, June 27: “They released my father, but kept Rani in the jail.” Those were five-year-old Gulki’s first words seeing Rani, the sloth bear she was brought up with, at a cage in Nandankanan zoo today.

Neither the bad road conditions nor the incessant rain could stop the father-daughter duo — Ramsingh Munda was arrested for keeping Rani captive for two years — to travel 225km from their Keonjhar home to visit one of their family members.

Ramsingh had found the bear cub about a couple of years ago on one of his visits to a nearby forest. The bear cub, then about three days old, followed the tribal man his home. “After my wife’s death, my daughter had developed an unusual bond with the bear,” said Ramsingh.

Ever since, the trio lived like a family and would be occasionally spotted riding happily on a bicycle. The zoo officials, however, sent Ramsingh to Keonjhar jail on June 16 and confiscated the bear stating action was taken under the wildlife laws.

The news of Rani being caged invited flak from all quarters, including wildlife activists. Ramsingh said that when wildlife officials had approached him he tried to return the bear to the forest but it found its way home. “We strongly condemn the manner in which the forest department officials arrested the poor and illiterate man, who was not aware of the rules,” Jiban Ballav Das, secretary of People for Animals, said adding that Ramsingh never tortured the animal.

“She is no less than a daughter to me and I was eagerly waiting for a chance to meet Rani again,” said Ramsingh today. The zoo officials also allowed Ramsingh to feed Rani home-made products. Nandankanan zoo director Ajit Patnaik said Rani was doing well in the zoo.

Ramchandra Rana, the president of Orissa State Consolidation Non-Gazetted Employees’ Co-ordination Committee, asked the government to appoint Ramsingh a caretaker of Rani in Nadankanan.

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