Saving the Sloth Bears — Eradicating the Dancing Bears of India

I guess I must have lived quite the sheltered life because I never knew there was such a thing as a “dancing bear.”

During the Middle Ages, dancing bears were a common and popular form of street entertainment throughout Europe and Asia. As the years have passed, it has become less common. There were still dancing bears in Britain until the practice was outlawed in 1911. India says that it only obtained the last dancing bear in its country just a couple of years ago. The traveling shows and individuals who needed to make a living would take the bears from place to place to “dance.” Just like the elephants in the zoos, people did not realize how horrible the practice was and the horror that these bears endure for our entertainment.

The Dancing Bears of India

Other bears would be taught to dance by placing them on platforms of metal above large piles of burning logs. As the metal became hot the bears would be forced onto their hind legs by the use of the pole and nose ring and would then begin lifting each paw, in turn, to relieve them from the heat. As the process continued a drum or other music was played which, over a number of weeks and months, the bear came to associate with the pain in its feet. Subsequently, whenever the bear heard the drum or music it would begin to “dance”.


Wildlife SOS — Ending the Practice of “Dancing Bears”

Finding Solutions That Make a Real Difference

First, the bear handler had to sign a contract not to get another bear and if he did, he would be imprisoned. Then they trained him and his family in some type of career and helped them open up a business. The women were given sewing machines and taught to make clothes. Some people opened up spice shops or other types of businesses. This allowed the bear handler to get off the road and actually spend time with his family too. Traveling around the country wasn’t the best life for the bear handler either, since he is essentially a nomad and on the road all the time.

Their work didn’t stop there. The children are given school books and an education. The organization opened up medical clinics to provide free healthcare. Everything Wildlife SOS does is designed to help the family become self-sufficient so that they would eliminate the need to use the bears.

Our Volunteer Experience at Wildlife SOS

No more will I think it is cute to see a monkey on some man’s arm as he’s trained it to do tricks for people instead of letting the monkey live free. No elephant or camel rides for me either. We have to learn to be amused in some other fashion since the lives these poor animals face is just too cruel.

The Sloth Bears’ Habitat — Free to Roam

Bear Platforms, Watermelon and Lots of Honey

We got out of the bear yard and stood close by to see what would happen next. The SOS worker yelled that he was going to open the gates and wanted to know if we were ready. We were!

The gates opened to the bears’ cages and they ran toward the platform. I couldn’t believe how fast they ran. They ran up on to the platform and grabbed the watermelons and the noise they made as they ate them!

They batted that ball around and licked at the honey and we all laughed at how the honey was all over their heads. That was probably the highlight of our day. We sat around watching them for a long time and it made us feel so good. We felt like we’d accomplished something great, even though it was only building a bear platform.

Wildlife SOS — A Great Organization Doing Amazing Work


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Please learn more about Wildlife SOS and their work by visiting their website today.


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