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The six year old bear suffered her last bear baiting event just hours before she was rescued and brought to Balkasar sanctuary last week.
Just a few weeks ago, Chowti, an Asiatic black bear, was tied up and attacked by dogs who bit and mauled her while people watched for entertainment. For her, it was just another bear baiting event, forced upon her by her owner, Fida Hussain. Luckily, this one would be her last.
Staff at the Bioresource Research Centre (BRC) in Pakistan had been tracking Hussain’s moves for a while. They had spotted him with Chowti in several locations in the Punjab and Sindh provinces, and repeatedly offered him financial and personal help in setting up a new, cruelty free livelihood – if he would just hand over Chowti. But he resisted all attempts to bring him into BRC’s Alternate Livelihood project. So when he and Chowti were spotted at that final bear baiting event in Sindh on 11th November, they alerted staff at the provincial government’s Wildlife Department, who took immediate action.
The Wildlife Department in Sindh played an extremely important role in this rescue – had it not been for their swift response to information about the bear baiting event, Hussain would have moved Chowti once again, and BRC staff would have had to start all over again to locate and monitor her even as she continued to suffer.
“Once we confiscated Chowti, we hit the road straight away, taking her to Balkasar in a vehicle loaned by the Wildlife Department, traveling at dusk and dawn, stopping ever so often to give Chowti some respite from the tiring confinement of being in the transport cage.” said Moazam Fayyaz, Manager of Alternative Livelihoods at BRC, who escorted Chowti to Balkasar along with two Wildlife Department officials. “When we found Chowti, she was covered in fresh wounds from the dogs. Chowti is blind in both eyes, so being baited would have been even more terrifying for her. There were powerful people involved in organizing this event, so we had to be quick and transport her immediately.”
When Chowti finally arrived at the WSPA-funded sanctuary in Balkasar, at 2:30 am on 12th November, staff gave her a medical exam, removed the ring that had pierced her muzzle and washed her wounds. They gave her a sedative so she could rest, and, later, she was released into the sanctuary’s quarantine area.
“We will need to keep a close eye on Chowti in the coming days,” said Fakhar-i-Abbas, Chief Executive of BRC, “She will be moved from the quarantine area into a training area, where she will spend about three weeks before we can release her into the open spaces.”
Since she is blind in both eyes, Chowti won’t even be able to see the daylight when the shutters go up in the quarantine area – she’ll have to rely on her senses of smell and touch to find her way out. But she’ll be safe, well-fed and cared for.
As for Fida Hussain, he will have to find a new way to support himself – alone, as he turned down all offers of help before Chowti’s capture. “He had been making a living from Chowti for more than four years, taking her to bear baiting events three or four times a month,” said Fakhar. “If he had agreed to co-operate with us, and hand over the bear, he could have had help setting up a new business – perhaps a grocery shop or a rickshaw service, but now he’s on his own.”
“We know there are plenty more bears like Chowti in Pakistan, suffering at the hands of their owners and the landlords who allow bear baiting to take place on their land. But we’ve had fantastic support from the provincial authorities, and we know Chowti won’t be the last bear we rescue.”
Read more about our campaign to end Bear Baiting in Pakistan. We need your support to help end bear baiting in Pakistan and run the Balkasar sanctuary for bears like Chowti.