Bhopal: In the run up to the International Bear Association (IBA) Conference 2012 to be hosted by India, the first in a series of state level workshops on sloth bear conservation and welfare was held today in Bhopal.
“Similar workshops will subsequently be organised in other Indian states falling within the distribution range of all four species of bears found in the country to help formulate a National Action Plan for bear conservation,” said Dr Rahul Kaul, Chief Ecologist, Wildlife Trust of India.
Organised by WTI and World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) in collaboration with Madhya Pradesh Forest Department and the Indian Institute of Forest Management (IIFM), the workshop brought together experts to discuss the central Indian state’s priorities on sloth bear conservation and welfare.
Dr HS Pabla, PCCF – Wildlife, Madhya Pradesh who was present at the event said, “It is great that agencies both government and non-government are working for consevation of species like the sloth bear. It is also good news that city folk especially children are getting sensitised to conservation issues. But none of these factors will prove the conservation efforts successful. What will make the difference at the end of the day is the involvement of the local communities and their support. And that is what we have to address and generate.”
Madhya Pradesh is among the 13 Indian states that harbour sloth bears in the wild. The bears face threats such as poaching for illegal trade in body parts and live capture of cubs, as well as repercussions of other activities of humans such as habitat degradation and fragmentation.
WTI-WSPA has been working since 2005 towards the eradication of the tradition of the use of sloth bears as livelihood in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Orissa as part of the Sloth Bear Conservation and Welfare Project.
This project aims for an integrated approach on sloth bear conservation in India through permanent rehabilitation of traditional bear dancers (Kalandars), controlling illegal trade in sloth bear and its body parts, mass awareness, rehabilitation of displaced bear cubs, capacity building of front line field staff and policy advocacy.
With the ongoing rehabilitation of 22 Kalandars in Madhya Pradesh in alternative livelihoods of their choice, the SBCWP has made considerable progress in eradicating sloth bear performance from this central Indian state. The project has also been providing livelihood support to dependents of Kalandars.
The workshop also saw deliberation on five priority action points each on Research, Trade Control, Conflict Mitigation and Welfare of sloth bears. Similar activities will be conducted in other state workshops to help develop the consolidated National Action Plan for the conservation of bears in the country.