Pakistan floods ravage bear sanctuary

Sadly, WSPA must report some distressing news from our bear baiting project in Pakistan. The recent floods have severely affected the Kund Park sanctuary, resulting in the tragic death of 20 of the 23 bears living there.

The death of these much-loved bears has devastated BRC and WSPA staff and we know it will be equally upsetting for our supporters.

Suzi Morris, WSPA UK Director said: “I hope it is of some comfort to know that it was the generosity of WSPA supporters that allowed the final chapter of these bears’ lives to be one of peace and tranquillity, safe from the violence and fear of bear baiting.”

Rescue against the odds

Initially it was feared that all of the 23 bears at Kund Park had been lost but Babu, Maylu and Sohrab were found alive in the floodwaters.

In difficult circumstances, BRC staff transported them to the near-complete, new sanctuary at Balkasar. It is now more urgent than ever that building work on the Balkasar sanctuary is finished and the team at BRC are working flat out to achieve this.

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Scenes of devastation

Over the past few weeks the world has watched as heavy monsoons have caused the worst floods in Pakistan for 80 years. At the time of writing, up to 14 million people have been affected by the floods and an estimated 1,600 have lost their lives.

The damage to the Kund Park sanctuary is so severe that is seems unlikely that it can be rebuilt in the near future, perhaps at all.

Thanks to WSPA supporters, the new Balkasar sanctuary is due to be completed in October and will have the capacity to provide a home for Babu, Maylu and Sohrab and for the remaining bears still being used to fight in bear baiting arenas. 

Why was the sanctuary so badly hit?

The Kund Park sanctuary is located between the Indus and Kabul Rivers in North-West Frontier Province, the epicentre of the recent floods.

A flood warning system was in place but the dramatic rise in floodwaters – reaching 60ft above river level – did not give BRC staff enough time to remove the bears from danger. The team did all they could to try to secure the safety of the bears by moving them to higher ground, staying at the sanctuary for as long as possible before they had to evacuate for their own personal safety.

Tireless search and rescue

As soon as the floodwaters receded, Fakhar and his team worked around the clock to search for the bears. Three bears were found alive but after days of searching, they had to face the devastating realisation that 20 of their beloved bears were confirmed dead. 

WSPA is extremely impressed by the fortitude of BRC staff and their response to such a devastating tragedy. Many of the local staff were personally affected, some losing their homes to the floods, but this did not stop their dedication to securing the safety of the bears they have spent years caring for.

Amongst the drowned bears were names that WSPA supporters will know well

Star: rescued only months earlier from the horrors of bear baiting, thanks to BRC and the wonderful response of WSPA supporters to a recent appeal. 

Lailah: saved from bear baiting in 2008 and featured in a WSPA appeal. 

Rustam: liberated by Victor Watkins, WSPA’s bear expert, in 2001 and one of the oldest bears at the Kund Park sanctuary. 

Dewa: confiscated from poachers in 2009 aged just five months old, was taken to the Kund Park sanctuary along with his brother, Babu, who was saved from the floods.

The other two lucky survivors are three year old Maylu was rescued in 2006, saved from the black market bear trade. Sohrab is a two year old Asiatic black bear who had been living peacefully at the Kund Park sanctuary since 2007.

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