More orphaned bear cubs head for the wild in India
Three orphaned Asiatic black bear cubs are being walked inside Pakke Tiger Reserve located in India’s Northeast state of Arunachal Pradesh. Achieving acclimatization is an essential step towards full rehabilitation and release back to the wild.
The rehabilitation is being carried out by the Arunachal Pradesh Forest Department and IFAW-WTI (International Fund for Animal Welfare – Wildlife Trust of India). In two similar attempts in 2006 and 2007 respectively, seven black bear cubs were rehabilitated in Pakke. Additionally, last year, three orphaned bear cubs were released in Manas National Park in Assam, following prolonged acclimatization.
“Pakke Tiger Reserve spreads over 800 sq km and has many sites suitable to rehabilitate Asiatic black bear cubs. In the first two attempts, the bears were rehabilitated in Upper Dikarai and Khari Pong. The current release site near Doigurung anti-poaching camp, as with the earlier sites, was selected following a study on the suitability for the cubs in terms of habitat, food availability, security etc,” said Dr NVK Ashraf, Director, Wild Rescue Programme, WTI.
Currently, near Doigurung in Pakke, the three cubs are taken for daily walks accompanied by a human foster ‘mother’. The walks provide these orphaned cubs an opportunity to acquaint themselves to the natural environment, and to instinctively learn skills necessary for independent survival.
Two of these cubs -a male and a female- were confiscated by the Arunachal Pradesh Forest Department from Khonsa in March this year. The cubs were admitted to the IFAW's Bear Rescue Center in West Bank, Pakke, for hand-raising and rehabilitation. The cubs were relocated to the release site in July. A month later, they were joined by the third cub –a male- that was handed over by the Assam Forest Department.
“The cubs have a strange yet interesting relationship. The two cubs rescued from Khonsa quarrel often. The third cub imitates the female from Khonsa, as a cub would imitate its mother, although they are of the same age group. It is as if he understands that she is more experienced and that he can learn from her,” said Soumya Das Gupta, WTI field officer.
“Over the past two months, the cubs have learnt to identify a variety of common wild food including bamboo, canes, insects, crabs and even fish. However, as they have not yet experienced the wild during the fruiting season, they still have a lot more to learn. The cubs will be walked for several months more. They will be radio-collared when they ‘demonstrate’ their ability to survive without their foster mother, following which they will be released and monitored remotely.”