Indian bears “walked” to ready for release


Currently, there are six bears at the acclimatization site at the Pakke Tiger Reserve in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, of which four are taken for daily excursions into the forest. The other two are still getting used to the outdoor pre-release enclosure at the acclimatisation site and will begin their walks soon.

Each day at the break of dawn, animal keepers Lakhiram, Aman and Jikom of the Centre for Bear Rehabilitation and Conservation (CBRC) accompany these bear cubs on long walks into the forest where they are allowed to forage and explore the diverse flora and fauna of the Pakke landscape.

The animal keepers play a critical role in helping the cubs identify certain species of plants that form part of bears’ natural diet. This is crucial for cubs to develop an understanding of wilderness and what it takes to survive the hardships of life in the forest. 

“We have just started this process. Initially, we tempt them with fruits so that they come out of the pre-release enclosure and then take them to the forest to explore.” said Lakhiram.

Gradually, the time spent in the forest is increased and it is planned in such a way that the bears develop a habit of being independent in the wild and forage for food on their own. Slowly their dependency on the diet provided by the CBRC team is reduced to ensure they forage with more vigour.

Dr Jahan Ahmed, Project Lead, CBRC, said, “These walks will continue for another three to four months after which they will be radio collared before release.”

Rescued at a very early age, these bear cubs were brought to CBRC from different parts of the northeast and the chances of their survival seemed uncertain. Hand-raised under the watchful care of the CBRC veterinarians and animal keepers, who act as foster mothers, they bounced back and were soon ready for rehabilitation.

After having spent a considerable time at CBRC, the team decided that the time was right to introduce these cubs to forests where they would eventually be released. The team zeroed in on an acclimatisation site near Doigurung anti-poaching camp in Pakke Tiger Reserve and the cubs were shifted here last October.

Read: Bear cubs released in Indian reserve

With support from Arunachal Pradesh Forest Department and IFAW, WTI has been running the Asiatic black bear rehabilitation programme in Arunachal Pradesh since 2004. Since then, IFAW-WTI has released 38 bear cubs in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. Of these, 20 were released in Pakke Tiger Reserve, 14 in Mehao Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh and four in Manas National Park and Ripu-Chirang Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam.

The IFAW-WTI team is elated that their dream of releasing these bear cubs back to the wild will soon come true.



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