Saturday 20 February 2016 | 0

Jeeth : a historical liberation

Jeeth, one of the last dancing bears identified in India, was released back into the wild from a sanctuary in Agra by his Qualandar trainer on December 9th, 2009. This liberation was the successful culmination of seven years' worth of One Voice's intensive work alongside Wildlife SOS.

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A victory for bears

The name Jeeth, which translates to "victory" in Hindi, could not be more appropriate for this particular bear. For all four years of his life, Jeeth has been forced to dance. However, on December 9 th, 2009, Jeeth became a symbol for all of the bears that have been liberated in India. Today he represents a victory for all of those who have spent years both working on the ground with and supporting Wildlife SOS, One Voice and the NGOs IAR and Free the Bears to put an end to a tradition which has been contributing to the extinction of the sloth bear on the Indian subcontinent for 400 years.

No longer slaves

In spite of a very strict law passed in 1972 in India, the bear keeping tradition managed to endure for centuries due to the fact that it is the primary source of income for the nomadic Qualandar community This barbarous custom consisted of forcing bears, captured at a very young age, to mimic a jumping dance. Being hit with sticks and having ropes strung through their snouts was just part of the daily torture. For the price of a few rupees, the Qualandars exhibited the bears in the most touristic places they were able access. By gradually liberating all of the bears from the yokes of their captors, our anti-poaching unit has put an end to this life of slavery, in which bears were mutilated and deprived of care, adequate food, or any semblance of freedom.

A long-term undertaking

Since 2002, the anti-poaching unit Forestwatch, created by One Voice and Wildlife SOS, has been carrying out this long-term project. Not only did they locate all of the dancing bears throughout the country, form teams, conduct informational campaigns, stop traffickers and poachers for questioning, but they also collaborated with local authorities to develop a reintegration program for Qualandar community. This program assists in providing for medical needs, schooling for children, and educational programs that facilitate former trainers in receiving financial assistance and starting new professions. There is no doubt that the key to the success of this seven-year struggle was the promise of a "better future," Jeeth's trainer emphasized following their separation.

Relearning how to live

Jeeth has been entrusted to a sanctuary in Agra where he currently resides. Freed from his rope and placed in a park that takes into account both mental and physical health, he gradually relearned how to live like a bear. As soon as he was ready, he went on to join his fellow bears, also liberated from their formers lives of slavery. Unlike a zoo, where everything is done with regards to the human visitor, the sanctuary is designed according to the needs of residents. From now on, Jeeth's daily life consists of climbing trees, hiding, looking for food, eating honey and fruit, playing, and even spending time with other wild animal survivors such as long-tailed macaques, antelopes, mongoose, birds, etc.

A historic turning point

December 9th, 2009 marks a historic turning point for all of the bears in the world. The end of the Indian bear's bondage inspires hope for all other wild animals trained to perform. In France, bears and many other animals are still constrained to lives that disrespect both their nature and their needs.

Watch the videos 

  • Jeeth's liberation (1/5): Last moments
  • Jeeth's liberation (2/5): For a better future
  • Jeeth's liberation (3/5): On the road to liberation ...
  • Jeeth's liberation (4/5): No more rope
  • Jeeth's liberation (5/5): In quarantine
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