TikTok Video Leads to Bear’s freedom

Officials trying to convince gypsy capturers to hand over the animal

photo sindh wildlife dept

The Sindh Wildlife Department (SWD) finally managed on Aug 22, 2020 to trace a black bear in captivity, after a TikTok video of it went viral on social media.However, SWD officials were unable to convince the gypsy family that held the animal in captivity in Sanghar’s Tando Adam to hand it over them.

The issue gained the SWD’s and conservationists’ attention after a TikTok user, Danish alias Dani Baba, uploaded the video of the chained bear on social media.

Locating the animal, however, proved to be a difficult task as Danish had not shared the bear’s exact location.

While conservationists made failed attempts to approach the TikTok user, the SWD appealed to citizens, particularly Danish, on social media to help them locate the bear, even offering the boy a certificate for his assistance.

At the time, asking Danish for information seemed the SWD’s best bet at getting a lead to the bear’s location. However, he proved to be of little help.

“I am not sure where I saw the animal,” he said. “I was on my way to Karachi from Sukkur when I saw the bear with a gypsy family,” he added.

He clarified that he did not know that by filming the bear, he was committing an illegal act. “Many young boys were making its video,” he said, pledging to avoid shooting videos of animals in the future.

But Danish’s ignorance of the bear’s location was unable to deter SWD officials and their efforts finally bore fruit on Aug 22, when a SWD team, led by Aijaz Noondhani and aided by district police, tracked down the bear.

It was in Tando Adam, Sanghar, in the illegal possession of a gypsy family.

But freedom was to take more than just a raid.

According to SWD conservator Javed Ahmed Mahar, the first impediment faced by the raiding officials was in the shape of resistance put up by the women of the gypsy family.

The second hurdle appeared in the form of the bear’s gypsy owners’ obstinacy, with the SWD team unable to convince it to hand over the bear.

The SWD team tried to convince the family to hand over the animal. It even offered the head of the family a rickshaw as an alternate source of livelihood.” It is pertinent to note here that many gypsy families keep animals in captivity and use them for beggary.

While it appeared the SWD had a tall task to accomplish, Mahar refused to lose hope of the bear getting its much-deserved freedom.

The black bear in Tando Adam city was finally rescued and safely reached a sanctuary near Islamabad.

New bearings

Rescued, and renamed as Sobharo – meaning ‘victorious’ – the bear was shifted to the National Bear Rehabilitation Sanctuary (NBRS) the same evening. Located between Chakwal and Islamabad, the centre is roughly 1,200 kilometres from Tando Adam.

Sobharo reached his new home the next day, and was placed in quarantine for the first couple of days.

“The next step was to remove the ring pierced in his nose,” explained Mahar.

Wildlife experts say that one of the most sensitive parts of a bear’s body is its nose, and it is often pierced early on during its training, in order to control it. Sobharo’s nose ring was removed through a minor surgical procedure. “It is a difficult process and needs the utmost care,” said Mahar. After the surgery, Sobharo had to be quarantined again, and was later released in the sanctuary.

Illegal bear-baiting

A number of bears have been rescued from different parts of the province and sent to the sanctuary since Sindh imposed a complete ban on bear-baiting in 2015.

An official at the NBRS said that there were many such bears in different provinces, including Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. “Sindh has only three left. We hope the other provinces will soon follow suit,” he said.

“We will soon trace them and Sindh will be the first province to end bear-baiting forever,” said Mahar.

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