Wednesday 12 October 2022 | 4

A rare sloth bear receives global support: Wildlife SOS and the IUCN propose a World Day for Sloth Bears on 12 October

A rare sloth bear receives global support: Wildlife SOS and the IUCN propose a World Day for Sloth Bears on 12 October

Mis à jour le 26 December 2022

Sloth bears are a unique species that are found mainly in India. They also exist in a tiny number in Nepal and have a sub-species in Sri Lanka, thus making India their main home. They are also the least studied bears in the world. They are strong enough to scare away a pair of wild adult tigers to protect their young.

Wildlife SOS India, involved in the conservation and protection of sloth bears for more than 25 years, has proposed to the IUCN that 12 October be declared ‘WORLD DAY FOR SLOTH BEARS’ in order to attract attention to the conservation and protection of this unique ursine species, endemic on the Indian sub-continent and listed as ‘vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List. The IUCN-SSC team of experts on sloth bears has accepted this proposal and declared that this day will be celebrated worldwide.

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World Day for Sloth Bears will be an opportunity for this species to be showcased, and for associations, institutions, rescue centres, and zoos in the whole world to promote conservation of sloth bears and their habitat, to expedite research, and to make the public aware of this still little-known species on an international level. Sloth bears are often confused with South-American arboreal sloths who move slowly. In reality, sloth bears are agile and considered among the most formidable wild animals.

To commemorate the first World Day for Sloth Bears, Wildlife SOS and the IUCN-SSC team of experts will organise an inaugural event at the Agra Bear Rescue Centre in Uttar Pradesh on 12 October 2022. This is the biggest rescue and rehabilitation centre in the world for sloth bears, created in 1999 by Wildlife SOS in collaboration with the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department.

Sloth bears (Melursus ursinus) are one of eight ursine species present in the world. They are known thanks to their very distinctive long dark-brown or black fur, a distinct white patch on their chest in a V-shape, and their curved ivory-coloured four-inch long claws used to dig out termites and ants from hard mounds. In the Indian subcontinent, they are present throughout the Deccan Plateau, coastal areas, western ghats, and up to the foot of the Himalayas.

Today, 90% of the global sloth bear population is found in India. According to several reports, their population has shot up from 40 to 50% during the last three decades, mainly due to loss of habitat, habitat fragmentation, poaching, and an increase in conflict with humans.

The 1972 Indian law (Wildlife Protection) included sloth bears in Annexe I, granting them the same level of protection as tigers, rhinoceroses, and elephants. However, this key species in particular had to fight a long and hard battle for survival and urgently requires conservation and protection measures.

These bears were formerly captured in India for fun (a barbaric practice of ‘dancing bears’). Wildlife SOS has been at the forefront of conservation for sloth bears for more than 25 years. With the support of their international partners — IAR (International Animal Rescue) and One Voicethey have saved and rehabilitated more than 628 dancing bears, thus putting an end to a four-centuries-old barbaric tradition. They have also provided alternative livelihoods to members of the nomadic Kalandar community, making the women independent and educating the children to prevent them from carrying on this illegal and cruel tradition.

Sloth bears are classified as ‘vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List. Their conservation is only hindered by the fact that we know very little about them. With only 6,000 to 11,000 individuals in the wild in India, it is essential that we start to rewrite the history for this species.

« This day is a call to arms so that people in the whole world better understand this species and promote their conservation so that they will never disappear. The public can help to save Indian sloth bears by discovering their habitat and by supporting the associations actively working to protect them. We are grateful to the Forests Department, the MoEF & CC, the Indian government, and our partner associations, IAR (United Kingdom), HSI (Australia), One Voice (France), and Terre-et-Faune (Switzerland), for their friendly and unfailing support of our work as the decades pass.  »
Kartick Satyanarayan, Co-Founder and CEO of Wildlife SOS
« One Voice has been a partner of Wildlife SOS for decades, having worked hand-in-hand to put a stop to dancing bears and for the preservation of wildlife in India. The work accomplished by their team to promote research, conservation, and raising awareness regarding sloth bears is remarkable. We will be proud to celebrate World Day for Sloth Bears on 12 October and to help Wildlife SOS to ensure that these animals receive the protection that they need. »
Muriel Arnal, Founding President of One Voice, a partner association of Wildlife SOS
« In many ways, sloth bears are the most unique ursine species. They carry their young on their backs for 6 to 9 months, 50% of their diet is made up of termites and ants, and they are capable of making an adult tiger flee. Unfortunately, they are faced with growing pressures of habitat loss and fragmentation as well as other man-made risks, particularly poaching. World Day for Sloth Bears is an opportunity to take stock and reflect on the importance of protecting this truly unique species. »
Nishith Dharaiya, Co-chair of the IUCN sloth bear expert team
« Sloth bears have lived on the Indian subcontinent for almost two million years. These are the least-studied bears in the world and we have many mysteries to solve concerning this unique ursine species. We hope that 12 October each year will be established for the preservation of sloth bears in the world. »
Geeta Seshamani, Co-Founder and Secretary for Wildlife SOS

Who is Wildlife SOS?

Wildlife SOS is a charitable not-for-profit association created in 1998 with the main goal of saving and rehabilitating wildlife in distress in India. It actively leads protection projects for wildlife and nature to promote conservation and fight against poaching and the illegal trade of wild species. It works in partnership with the government and native communities in order to provide former poaching communities with alternative and sustainable livelihoods.

Translated from the French by Joely Justice

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Comments 4

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keria | Friday 02 December 2022

C'est bien si vous êtes parvenus à mettre fin à cette tradition de l'ours dansant et du braconnage qui a frappé l'ours Lippu ! Au point même d'avoir une journée pour célébrer cette espèce emblématique de l'Inde. Pour ma part j'aurais préféré 2 ou 3 journée de célébration sur la faune sauvage avec en priorité l'éléphant, le loup (ancêtre du chien) et l'ours.

xavier78 | Thursday 20 October 2022

Une belle action pour la sauvegarde des ours. Ca fait plaisir de lire de belles choses pour le bien-être de nos animaux.

Shogun74 | Wednesday 19 October 2022

Merci chère Murielle pour vos belles actions, vos sauvetages. Sanglier blessé achevé à la dague, des pratiques de fous furieux, vu vidéo: un pauvre gros père de sanglier blessé par des chasseurs lui sectionnant les testicules, il hurle de douleurs, cela ne les dérange absolument pas, c'est effroyable, d'autres tirent une biche par les pattes comme un déchet, alors je pleure en voyant cette horreur, c'est sans limites de la part de ces fous furieux !

Patricia | Wednesday 19 October 2022

Dans ce monde d'horreurs, c'est si beau et nécessaire ce que vous faites pour les animaux.
Merci pour les générations futures qui pourront voir encore des animaux libres dans ce monde grâce à votre travail.