Bhopal, August 6 : Around 37 bears, rescued under the Wildlife Protection Act from the custody of their nomadic masters in the past, are being provided safe haven at the Van Vihar National Park here.
Special caretakers and a veterinary doctor have been hired to look after the bears.
Of the 37 bears--18 are males, 14 are females and five are cubs. Most bears at the centre are of the Himalayan sloth breed and have a life span of 25 to 30 years.
Most of them were brought to the centre about two years ago.
At the Van Vihar National Park Bear Rescue Centre, these bears who used to suffer at the hands of their local masters, better known as Kalandars in local parlance, are today leading a life of bliss. They are being provided the comforts of a natural habitat. They have a swimming pool and are given a good diet that includes dry fruits, honey, vitamins and mineral supplements.
"We come at seven in the morning, clean up their enclosures, then we give them fruits and honey. We also give them lapsi (porridge) in the evenings" said Kuldeep Kumar, a caretaker at the Bear Rescue Centre.
The bears were initially quarantined for a month and released into their enclosure after a veterinarian certified their health and mental condition.
"Their condition was quite serious when they were brought to us. They were not satisfied, as they were living in one room. Then they were separated from each other. But now they are living and playing together. They look happy and eat properly," said Kuldeep Kumar, a caretaker at the Bear Rescue Centre.
"When these bears were with their nomadic masters, they were only a means of bread and butter for them. This was because the masters were poor and did not have anything to feed the bear. The practice to use them for livelihood is banned under the Wildlife Protection Act. So the Government and the Wildlife SOS jointly took the initiative and saved them. Such steps are to be taken in other States as well," said Dr. Atul Gupta, Veterinarian, Van Vihar National Park, Bhopal.
The nomadic Kalandars, who compel these tamed bears to perform dances and other tricks at public places, often fail to maintain a proper upkeep of these wild animals. y Ram Chand Sahu