Rescued sloth bears have learned to play and love their new life

The sloth bears of India are one of the greatest and saddest examples of animal abuse known. Also referred to as "Dancing Bears", the animals have been kept by a nomadic tribe that use them to generate income through entertainment. Unsuspecting tourists and villagers are treated to a performance that has the bears dancing on their hind legs. It's adorable at first glance, but it's a horrific practice beneath the surface.

The bears are captured at a young age, often by killing the mother. Hot steel pokers are used to bore a hole in the muzzle through which a rope is inserted and tied. Pulling on this rope causes excruciating pain and the bear will do almost anything to avoid it. Their teeth are knocked out in a barbaric fashion so that the bears cannot defend themselves. They are then at the mercy of the cruel handlers who torture the animals until they are submissive and willing to perform. Providing these handlers with money supports an industry that continues the cycle.

India has passed laws that made the practice illegal. Enforcing these laws was another matter and it took the efforts of rescue agencies to truly change what was happening. Through funding and donations, organizations like WilddlifeSOS were able to purchase the bears and give them a proper home and a second chance at life.

Part of the problem was ensuring that the practice did not repeat. WildlifeSOS has educated and trained thousands of nomadic people in order to give them marketable skills and better options than enslaving animals for profit. This is the only way to solve the problems that encourage the trade.

These bears are living a new life and they have begun to show natural behaviours such as play and relaxation. They may never truly heal from the life that has broken them, but they now know kindness and compassion in this wonderful sanctuary.

WildlifeSOS can only provide assistance to deserving animals through private donations. Please consider visiting their website and helping in any way you can. WildlifeSOS.org

The facility and the people behind it are among the most professional and dedicated in the world.