on Nat Geo’s Newswatch
Under the leadership of the Hon’ble Chief Minister Mr. Akhilesh Yadav, the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department and the conservation NGO, Wildlife SOS, headquartered in New Delhi, successfully translocated a sloth bear.
The relocation and release effort was a part of a momentous inaugural effort to study human-bear conflict and more generally human-wildlife conflict on the Subcontinent.
The project launched an investigation of bear behavior at the interface of eco-sensitive protected zones and other protected areas and unprotected areas of India.
A robust and healthy, four year old, adult male sloth bear was released in to the Suhelwa Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh (UP) after he was declared fit for release by the veterinary clinicians of Wildlife SOS’s Agra Bear Rescue Facility (ABRF). The rescue center is the largest sloth bear holding facility in the world and the largest captive bear facility of any kind.
The Suhelwa Wildlife Sanctuary in Eastern UP is an important wildlife sanctuary for large carnivores in India and rich in biodiversity. This unprecedented release of a wild sloth bear following translocation from a village in Shikohabad—near Agra— to the Suhelwa Wildlife Sanctuary represents the first opportunity to study this little known species of Sloth bear in regard to human-wildlife conflict.
India is home to four species of bears, but only the sloth bear is endemic to South Asia. The mainland subspecies, Melursus ursinus ursinus, occurs on the Subcontinent. As few as 5000 to 7000 sloth bears are estimated to live in fragmented populations across the Indian Subcontinent. Although, India is considered a stronghold for the mainland and nominate subspecies of Melursus ursinus, sloth bears even in protected areas like the Suhelwa are not ever far from heavily populated human dominated landscapes.
An endemic and hyper-omnivorous Sri Lankan subspecies, Melursus ursinus inornatus, may number as few as 500 individuals in the wild.
Wildlife SOS (WSOS), a Wildlife Conservation Organization rescued the wild sloth bear in response to calls from the U.P. Forest Department and public concern about eight weeks ago, after conflict ensued following the sighting of the wild ursid by locals According to initial reports the lone bear’s presence near the village of Shikohbad created widespread panic.
Wildlife SOS veterinarian Dr. Ilayaraja and his rescue team tranquilized the wild bear in a five hour-long rescue operation. They removed the animal from a 30 foot long underground culvert where it had taken refuge.
The bear was relocated to Wildlife SOS’s Agra Bear Rescue Facility not far from the Taj Mahal for observation and subsequent treatment. As mentioned, the rescue center is the largest bear rehabilitation facility in the world and is primarily dedicated to the rehabilitation of former street dancing sloth bears.
The bear was released two days ago following a 15 hour drive from Agra to the wildlife sanctuary, which is 120 km long with of 5 to 9 km across and situated near the Indo-Nepal border.
Chief Wildlife Warden Dr. Rupak De said “this is the first time a Sloth Bear has been released successfully in the wild with a Radio Collar. The data from tracking the movements of the bear will help the Forest Department understand bear behavior and mitigate future conflict between people and wild bears. We are happy to be collaborating with Wildlife SOS to carry out this important study on Human Wildlife Conflict”
Wildlife SOS CEO and co- founder Kartick Satyanarayan said “This successful release was possible thanks to the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department under the able leadership and visionary approach of the Hon’ble Chief Minister Shri Akhilesh Yadav. Our research team is currently monitoring the bear’s movements and will also document habitat use and ranging patterns of the bear.”
As more conflict bears are radio collared and monitored, the resultant data gathered will contribute to understanding and mitigation of Human-Bear Conflict (HBC) which is on the rise in many parts of India.
According to Dr. Brij Kishor Gupta of Central Zoo Authority, Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India “This radio collaring of conflict wild bears by U.P. Forest Department and Wildlife SOS is a valuable scientific addition for both in situ and ex situ management of sloth bears.
This sloth bear conservation effort is supported in part by International Animal Rescue, San Diego Zoo Global, Hauser Bears, Free The Bears Fund, and Alertis.
Watch the bear release video on http://www.facebook.com/wildlifesosindia
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