Nepal returns ‘dancing bear’ to India

Nineteen-year-old Rangila doesn’t need to dance anymore. The sloth bear, which was smuggled into Nepal in December 2017 for use as a ‘dancing bear,’ is being sent back to India.

The Indian and Nepalese governments, Nepal’s Jane Goodall Institute, and the Indian non-profit, Wildlife SOS, facilitated the repatriation. The seven-month-long process involved obtaining several approvals and documents from both countries (including import permits), the organisations said.

Wildlife SOS also launched a campaign requesting Nepalese authorities to help the bear. Eventually, a Cabinet decision by the government of Nepal approved the bear’s repatriation to India. It has, however, been an arduous journey for Rangila.

It was in December 2017 that Wildlife SOS received information about two dancing bears on the Indo-Nepal border. But the traffickers swiftly moved them into Nepal, where Indian authorities do not have jurisdiction.

Nepal’s enforcement officials detained two people, and the two bears, Rangila and 17-year-old Sridevi, were temporarily shifted to the Kathmandu Zoo. Sridevi, unfortunately, did not survive.

A 1,000-km journey

At present, two Wildlife SOS teams are engaged in escorting Rangila in an animal ambulance on its 1,000-km journey from the Kathmandu Zoo to the Agra Bear Rescue Centre in Uttar Pradesh, where he will join nearly 200 rescued sloth bears.

This is a unique effort to bring back a wild citizen home, said Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder of Wildlife SOS. Once Rangila reaches the Wildlife SOS Bear Rescue Centre, he will receive specialised veterinary care, said co-founder Geeta Seshamani.

“He will have a large forested enclosure with a pool, lots of trees to climb, and other bears to play with,” she added.

“We are happy to help in this repatriation mission,” said Chiranjibi Prasad Pokheral, project manager at the Kathmandu Zoo, where both Rangila and Sridevi were housed. Sloth bears (
Melursus ursinus
), found only in the Indian subcontinent, were exploited as ‘dancing bears’ in India until the practice was banned in 1972. But it is not illegal in Nepal.

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