When sloth bear Rangila was just a cub, he was taken from his mother and sold into Nepal’s entertainment industry. The trainer who had purchased Rangila then pierced the cub’s nose with a hot needle and threaded a rope through it. The trainer then used the rope to make Rangila to “dance” in public so the trainer could make money. And Rangila lived this life of abuse for 20 years.
Help finally arrived for Rangila and another sloth bear named Sridevi. The two were both known to be the last dancing bears in Nepal. Since 1973, it has actually been illegal to use bears for entertainment in Nepal — so members from the Jane Goodall Institute Nepal were thankfully able to save the bears as well as organize for them to be moved to a sanctuary run by Wildlife SOS in India.
But that didn’t exactly happen….
Local authorities ended up moving the bears to Central Zoo in Jawalakhel, Nepal — the country’s only zoo and one that is known for null animal welfare standards. Rangila and Sridevi were both locked up in small cages, on display for the public. Sridevi sadly, passed away at the zoo while Rangila became both sick and distressed.
“The footage that I’ve seen confirms our worst fears,” said wildlife technical expert for World Animal Protection (WAP), Neil D’Cruze, to The Dodo in March. “He’s being kept in a small enclosure with no enrichment, and he’s showing really telltale stereotypic behaviors — mewling, paw sucking, swaying, pacing up and down.”
Animal welfare advocates along with D’Cruze toiled for months to attempt to free Rangila from the zoo but it wasn’t until June they finally received permission to move him to the sanctuary in June.
When Rangila first arrived at the sanctuary, he was traumatized. But thanks to the Wildlife SOS team, they helped him get healthy and happy
“Rangila is growing accustomed to his new home,” said CEO and co-founder of Wildlife SOS, Kartick Satyanarayan, to The Dodo. “During the initial weeks, even the slightest sound or movement would trigger his stereotypic behavior. This is usually characterized by head bobbing and pacing, a common behavior displayed by animals that are under immense stress or subjected to harsh captive conditions.”
But ever day Rangila is at the sanctuary, he is getting better — slowly but surely.
“This [stereotypic behavior] has reduced significantly, and we hope that with time, he will be able to overcome it completely,” Satyanarayan said. “He is on a healthy, nutritious diet and our veterinarians are happy to inform us that Rangila has gained almost 10 kilos [22 pounds] since his arrival.”
Rangila is also a big fan of all the enrichment activities at the sanctuary.
“His favorite so far has been the enrichment ball, which is filled with peanuts and dates,” Satyanarayan told The Dodo. “He also likes honey-smeared logs, digging up mud pits and is simply learning to be a bear again! This is really the first time that he has been able to explore the outdoors without being led around on the end of a rope, and seeing him react so positively to his new surroundings is reassuring for us,” Satyanarayan continued.
After being at the sanctuary for three months, the team expects Rangila to continue to improve both physically and mentally as Rangila finally has a future to look forward to.
“We’re so glad to see how well he is recovering, now that he’s being well cared for in a proper sanctuary, free of ropes and chains,” D’Cruze shared with The Dodo. “We’re grateful to everyone who worked tirelessly with us to deliver a better life for Rangila during all stages of his rescue and rehabilitation. He deserves to live the rest of his life in peace and safety.”
You can view the happy bear and his new home, here!
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