Last month the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) and its partner in Pakistan, the Bioresource Research Centre (PBRC), rescued two more bears from the bear baiting trade: a male Asiatic black bear named Vidaar, meaning “forest warrior,” and a female Himalayan brown bear named Lucia.

Vidaar. (Photo: BRC, Pakistan)

Both animals were in weak and starving conditions. Vidaar had been identified by PBRC in 2012 as a priority bear in need of rescue. A key part of the success of such rescue efforts has been the alternative livelihood (AL) program run by the BRC team in which a bear owner is helped to choose an alternative profession with the aim of providing him and his family with a steady and sustainable source of income, allowing the owner to give up the animal. And so it was that after months of negotiations his owner agreed to give Vidaar his freedom.

Lucia. (Photo: BRC, Pakistan)

    Lucia, meaning ‘light’, had been neglected and severely malnourished for years. She had been used for about a year in baiting. On arrival at the sanctuary she was fearful of people and cowered in her cage. She was sedated so the veterinarian could free her from her nose ring and neck rope. A health check showed that her lungs, pancreas and liver were diseased and she was suffering from infection. She was placed into the quarantine area where she received round-the-clock medical care. The bear initially began to show signs of recovery, but the infection worsened and she passed away.
    Vidaar had been used in baiting for nearly four years and had suffered a significant number of injuries.

BRC Sanctuary Manager removing ring and nose ropes.

His wounds were treated and his neck rope (used to tether him to a post in baiting arenas) was removed.

Ropes gone, free forever.

He is recovering in the quarantine area and eating well. When he is strong enough Vidaar will join the other rescued bears in the Balkasar Sanctuary.

Recovering from ring/rope removal.

Bear baiting is a popular spectator sport In rural Pakistan, where thousands assemble to watch a tethered and clawless bear set upon by trained fighting dogs.

Bear baiting, Pakistan.

    The practice is banned by the Pakistan Wildlife Act and contravenes Islamic teachings, which forbid the baiting of animals, but in rural areas it is a long standing tradition. The brutal contests are organized by powerful local landlords who own and train the dogs. The bears are furnished by traditional bear owners called Kalanders.

Bear baiting, Pakistan.

    Bear baiting events are usually held during a festival or at the great dargahs or the hawelis of these landlords. They range from small events with one bear and few dogs, to gatherings featuring as many as ten bears and more than forty dogs.

      Since 1997 the WSPA and its local partner in Pakistan, the Bioresource Research Centre (PBRC) have helped reduce the number of bears being used in the brutal ‘sport’ to around 50. WSPA and PBRC have employed a number of tactics to reduce the number of bear baiting events and when possible rescue the bears. Other rescued bears:

Robin before rescue.


Shabnam before rescue.

The Balkasar Sanctuary has two main electrically fenced enclosures, with water pools and ponds, a clinic for health checks, treatments and minor operations, and quarantine areas.

Balkasar Sanctuary for bears rescued from bear baiting.

Balkasar Research Complex and Sanctuary.


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