Agra : Two five-month-old male sloth bear cubs rescued from poachers while being smuggled abroad are being treated for injuries and dehydration at a bear sanctuary here.
The Uttar Pradesh forest department with the assistance of New Delhi-based NGO Wildlife SOS rescued the cubs from Ballia district, on the border with Bihar. A trader from the Kalandar community, traditional bear street performers, was arrested for trying to smuggle them out.
According to wildlife intelligence sleuths, the cubs were to be sent across the Nepal border and their final destination was the lucrative Southeast Asian market for 'bear paw soup'!
The cubs, weighing just 12 kg each, were brought to the Agra bear sanctuary last week. Their delicate muzzles bore injuries from being pierced with coarse ropes.
According to forest official G. Sudhakar: "The two animals are being treated by veterinary doctors at the bear rehab centre for re-hydration and will receive the best care to help them recover from the stress of the journey and torturous months spent with the captors."
The intelligence for the rescue operation was provided by Forestwatch, the anti-poaching cell of Wildlife SOS, with support from One Voice Association-France, which tracked the smugglers for several weeks to reach their precise location.
The team had been on the trail of the smuggler, Shanijansai, a resident of village Chitonisai Tola in Ballia, for three weeks. He confessed to having procured the cubs from poachers for Rs.300 ($8) from Jharkhand.
He was arrested under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The sloth bears are given the same degree of protection under the act as tigers, but they continue to be exploited for street entertainment by members of the nomadic Kalandar community.