In the summer of 2009 I visited Wildlife SOS to learn about the plight of India's dancing bears. My first stop was the Daroji bear sanctuary in Hampi. Here I met Samad Kottur, a local science teacher, who works to protect and rescue Sloth Bears.
Read more about my India expedition at: http://www.ironammonite.com
From my blog of 25th July 2009:
"Most of the sloth bears Samad has rescued have been from the brutal art of bear dancing - a traditional livelihood which has been practiced in rural India for centuries but which has been illegal since the wildlife protection act of 1972. Yet until very recently during the breeding season bear poachers would wait outside a den for the mother to leave in search of food for her young. They would swoop in, grab and bag the young cubs and sell them for less than 30,000 rupees (about 350 pounds) to Kollanders, the traditional bear dancing community. 'Here they begin a life of pain and discomfort.' Sammad told me, 'After a few months their canines are ripped out, their claws are clipped, males are castrated and a red hot iron is used to pierce their sensitive nuzzle through which a coarse rope is threaded.' it is the pain of pulling on this rope that makes them dance as they are dragged from village to village and made to perform, standing on their hind legs and used as puppets on a string. All the while enduring severe pain and punishment. 'they are severely malnourished and are only given the very poorest food to survive on' says Sammad with a tear in his eye 'when we rescue them they are in really bad shape'."
Filmed by David Heath, directed by Kalyan Varma, Production Manager Mandanna Dilan.