India’s last dancing bear celebrates 9 years of freedom

Into a caring world

Raju had spent the first seven years of his life in inconceivable pain and fear as he was made to go through a brutal indoctrination process that aimed to break his spirit. 

Raju, India’s last dancing bear, celebrated its ninth year of freedom at the Wildlife SOS Sloth Bear Rescue Centre in the Bannerghatta Biological Park on Monday. 

Raju was the last bear to be rescued from the Kalandar community and was brought to the rescue centre on December 8, 2009. Now, there are 628 sloth bears across India. 

Raju had spent the first seven years of his life in inconceivable pain and fear as he was made to go through a brutal indoctrination process that aimed to break his spirit. 

A red-hot iron poker was forcibly pierced through his tender muzzle and a coarse rope was then strung through the fresh wound. For the entire period of captivity, the rope had caused him agonising pain, forcing him to rear to his feet in distress every time his owner pulled it. Reacting to it, he would jump in agony and this act was interpreted as the bear dancing. 

He is now 16 years old and is seen enjoying himself under the shelter of trees and the sun basking. He enjoys himself with his fellow rescued sloth bears at the rescue centre, a volunteer said. 

The scars on Raju’s disfigured muzzle and missing teeth are a constant reminder of the cruelty inflicted upon him and many other bears, all in the name of the dancing bear practice. Raju turned out to be a bear of extraordinary emotional strength and character in spite of what he had been through, said Geeta Seshamani, the co-founder and secretary of Wildlife SOS. 

Dr Arun A Sha, Director, Research and Veterinary Operations, Wildlife SOS, said: “We have watched Raju grow and transform into a strong and spirited bear.” 

Kartick Satyanarayan, CEO, Wildlife SOS, said that to protect the sloth bear population, the focus was not only on rescuing the bears but also help alleviate the Kalandar community by providing them with an alternative livelihood.

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India’s last dancing bear celebrates 9 years of freedom

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