Elvis The Bear Celebrates 9 Yrs Of Freedom From Cruel Captivity

(MENAFN- IANS) Agra, April 4 (IANS) About a quarter century ago, dancing bears were a common sight in many parts of the country. They were a major attraction on the Fatehpur Sikri road in Agra, where hordes of tourists halted to see the bears dance.

It was largely a cruel practice as the animals were starved or underfed, and subjected to all kinds of brutalities by the 'kalandars' who made them dance for amusement for a living.

The kalandars, mostly Muslims, were patronised by the royalty. Judicial activism in the 1990s finally changed the scene for good, but poaching persisted.

The last dancing sloth bear was taken off the streets on December 18, 2009, according to records. Since then, more than 800 dancing bears have been rescued. Most have found shelter at Agra Bear Rescue Centre, run by Wild Life SOS. The government supports four such centres in India.

"It was common knowledge that the kalandars would first pull out the teeth and claws of the bear, then using hot iron rods, pierce holes in the snouts to thread a rope, and make them dance in the streets for some Rupees. The hair of the bears also brought some money," recalled environmentalist Devashish Bhattacharya.

Elvis defied the odds and embraced a life of joy and freedom. He recently celebrated his ninth year of freedom from captivity at the Agra Centre. Just two months old, Elvis was snatched away from his mother and subjected to unspeakable cruelty at the hands of poachers. His muzzle was pierced with a red-hot iron poker to subjugate him into the cruel 'dancing' bear trade. However, fate intervened, and Elvis found sanctuary at the Agra Bear Rescue Facility, where dedicated keepers nursed him back to health.

On his arrival in 2015, Elvis bore the scars of his traumatic past, trembling with fear and mistrust. Weak, dehydrated, and in immense pain due to his pierced muzzle, the bear cub was in dire need of intensive veterinary assistance. Under the medical care provided by Wildlife SOS, he overcame his condition and found a haven at the facility.

Hand-reared by the staff at Wildlife SOS, Elvis has forged a deep bond with his caregivers. From his initial apprehensive demeanour, Elvis has transformed into the most mischievous and playful bear in the facility, delighting in climbing trees and indulging in his favourite treats of fruit and honey. The nine-year-old bear is one of the most extroverted and playful residents at the bear sanctuary, with a personality that is impossible to miss.

Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder and CEO of Wildlife SOS said:“Watching Elvis prance around in his spacious field gives us immense joy, yet simultaneously reminds us of his past. Despite being poached from the wild and separated from his mother by wildlife traffickers, Elvis has thrived in his new environment, embodying resilience and strength.”

Geeta Seshamani, co-founder and Secretary of Wildlife SOS said:“Over the years, Wildlife SOS has rescued over 70 sloth bear cubs before they could be traded for the 'dancing' bear practice. To combat the estimated $10 billion wildlife trafficking industry, Wildlife SOS operates an anti-poaching squad called 'Forest Watch' aimed at mitigating its harms.”


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