The life of a dancing bear

A Kalandar with dancing sloth bear, India

Every year sloth bears are poached from the wild and trained to ‘dance’ for tourists and spectators in India. Their lives are hard and painful.

Poachers target bear cubs, either killing the mothers or snatching cubs from an unguarded den. Many bear cubs die from neglect and dehydration before they can be sold to Kalandars, India’s traditional dancing bear owners.

Those that survive spend their first months desperate to return to their mothers and natural habitat.

Mutilated and humiliated

To prevent human injuries, the cubs’ canine teeth are filed down or broken off. This maims the bear for life – without these teeth a return to the wild is impossible.

The young bears will have a hole pierced through their nose or palate. A rope is passed through the raw wound. No anaesthetic is used.

The hole is made in the muzzle because it is the most sensitive part of the animal. Tugging on the rope causes the bear intense pain, giving the owner total control.

The bears are conditioned to obey their owners. Their spirits are broken by the mental torture of captivity and the humiliation of performing. A poor and unsuitable diet further damages the health of these once wild animals.

Prevented from following their natural urges to roam, climb and create dens, many bears display the repetitive movements characteristic of severe stress.

By the time they are adult, captive bears will have learned to ‘dance’. The larger a bear is, the more impressive the sight is deemed to be.

Promoting long-term solutions

WSPA works to end bear dancing in a number of ways, including supporting Kalandars in finding new, cruelty free livelihoods.

Support in accessing alternative incomes allows Kalandars to pass a new profession on to their children, breaking the chain of animal cruelty.

Watch how our work has developed in film and images >>

Help us take action for animals

Never support a tourist attraction which disregards animal welfare.

You can help raise the status of animal welfare as an international issue by signing our petition for a Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare.


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