More Rescued Bears Released in India
Within a year of the successful rehabilitation of two Asiatic black bears, IFAW's parterner the Centre for Bear Rehabilitation and Conservation (CBRC) has released another batch of five in Pakke Tiger Reserve in northeastern India.
The bears were hand-reared at the CBRC. Following the soft-release protocol known as "assisted release", the bears were taken for daily walks in the wild assisted by a 'surrogate mother'. While the animals were encouraged to feed on their natural food, they were also supplemented with concentrate food at the camp where they spent the nights.
Initially, the bears returned to their temporary enclosure for the night, but gradually they began to show preference to rest outdoors, indicating signs of independence. As the wild instinct sunk in, the bears detached themselves from their caretaker, and began exploring the forests on their own.
"There are four crucial dates in any animal rehabilitation programme of this kind: their first walk in the wild, the first night they spent outside the enclosure, the first time they are left alone during the day and finally the day the walker stops accompanying them," says NVK Ashraf, Director Wild Rescue Programme.
Field officer Tamo Dadda at CBRC recalled, "The bears had begun showing reluctance to return to the camp at night after a few months from their first walk. Since April 2008, all but one spent their nights outside their enclosure in the camp, choosing to rest on the trees as they do in the wild. During their walks they foraged on leaves, shoots of bamboo, wild fruits, barks of various tree species and termites."
"The five bears are not all of the same age and obviously not all became independent at the same time. Their release date was finalised only after we were satisfied that each one of them was capable of surviving on their own. The radio collars are fitted to provide six to eight months of post-release monitering data. The collar drops off by the eigth month, before it becomes too tight, by which time the bear is mature enough to survive on its own, " said Ashraf.
With a capacity to hold up to 16 bears, the CBRC is situated at the western bank of Pakke River and provides a temporary refuge for cubs rescued from villagers or poachers. The ill-informed villagers in Arunachal Pradesh, unaware of its conservation status, hunt the bear for its meat and skin. The cubs are generally taken home to be kept as pets and often handed over to the forest department when as adults they become a liability.
INFO ABOUT ASIATIC BLACK BEARS: Found along the stretch of Himalayan forests (1200 to 3300 metres) in the Indian sub-continent, the Asiatic black bear is listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Habitat degradation and the resulting intense human-wildlife conflicts in the north-western Indian states and hunting for food in the north-eastern states are among the major threats to the species. Poaching for gall bladder to supply medicinal bile for the Traditional Chinese Medicines also threaten the Asiatic black bears.