No Mast Kalandar
Published by Anand Ramanathan, Ashraf N.V.K and Vivek Menon, 01 Mar 2004
The beginning to the end of dancing with bears - An Occasional Report of Wild Rescue Programme
No Mast Kalandar addresses the problem of ‘dancing’ sloth bears in India. More than a thousand sloth bears in captivity were engaged in this cruel tradition of ‘bear dancing’ for several years before the practice was outlawed. With the prohibition, large numbers of surrendered bears needed to be accomodated in lifetime care facilities. Releasing them back in the wild was not an option as having spent years in captivity in contact with humans, they were considered unsuitable for release, It was not possible to accommodate these displaced bears in zoos either. Ultimately a ‘wild within walls’ life time care facility project was conceived and developed in Bannerghatta Biological Park (BBP), Karnataka, by the Wildlife Trust of India, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Karnataka
Forest Department and Zoo Authority of Karnataka with additional support from Ministry of Social Welfare & Empowerment and Central Zoo Authority, Government of India. The site chosen was a 100 sq km mixed deciduous forest near Bannerghatta National Park. The Bannerhatta Biological Park is well known for its safari exhibits using tigers and lions. The park has wilderness areas with a suitable vegetation with many fruiting trees and anthills. A large, free–ranging area of about 35 acres was cordoned off mostly by a moat, and night enclosures for the bears and accommodation built inside this for the keepers. The keepers were specially chosen from among the Kalandar people to offer them an alternative livelihood while at the same time utilising their traditional skills of hand-rearing and managing sloth bears.
The project space was designed to allow visitors to see sloth bears in their natural environment without allowing the visits to be intrusive. It was expected that this exposure to bears in their natural environment would help change public attitude by sensitizing people and making them aware of the pain and torture of bear dancing, encouraging conservation and welfare of the sloth bears.
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