I’ve just received some hugely uplifting news from one of our animal welfare and conservation allies in India – and what better time to be sharing good news with you than now, as Christmas fast approaches. Just three days ago, our friends at Wildlife SOS, announced that they are close to putting an end to 300 years of bear dancing in India – inspiring proof that with good legislation, strong enforcement and widespread awareness campaigns to change public attitudes tangible changes can be achieved.
Having rescued almost 600 bears from tortuous lives as entertainment props, the team at Wildlife SOS can, at last, feel confident that the ambitious project they embarked upon seven years ago, is close to being fulfilled.
Some of those previously rescued bears are now living in their natural habitat enclosure at the Bannerghatta Bear Sanctuary, where, next door to our own sanctuary for rescued tigers, Born Free supporters have provided funds for the construction of Wildlife SOS’ vet clinic. I have seen, first-hand, the care with which they rescue and carefully rehabilitate beaten and broken bears back to some semblance of what nature intended and I am proud of what they have achieved, and delighted that we at Born Free have been able to make such a meaningful contribution.
The sobering issues that characterise the animal welfare and conservation sector rarely throw up wholly positive success stories. But when they do, we must embrace them as fully and gratefully as we can. I wholeheartedly congratulate not only the team at Wildlife SOS for their unwavering toil and dedication, but also the Indian government, for taking a bold, compassionate step in making bear dancing – and the use of certain wild animals in circuses – illegal in their country.
To those who continue to exploit wildlife, let this marvellous news send a clear signal that such abuse will not be tolerated. And, as the UK government continues to fail captive wild animals here, despite overwhelming public and political opposition, let India’s example be a signal to them that it is time to do the right thing, and ban the use of all wild animals in our own country in 2010.
Merry Christmas to you all.