In the 13 years of her life, Lilly the bear has suffered much. She lost her mother when she was just a cub and was taken by a gang to be part of the dancing bear troupe, ‘madari ka khel’ that was once a popular roadside entertainment in India and still can be seen in many villages and small towns although banned.  Almost blind and severely injured, Lilly was finally rescued by Wildlife SOS.  She  then found her life back thanks to a group of British female vets who treated her eyes and gave her sight back.

Lilly, just like other dancing bears and captive animals, was a victim of tragic circumstances where humans behave in the most barbaric fashion towards animals. Her nose was pierced with a red hot needle, where a rope was permanently tied. She was forced to dance on hot plates and was clubbed severely if she refused. Her nails were cut with pliers and teeth removed with chisels, snatching away all her wild traits bit by bit. She developed cataract by the age of five and could hardly see the cruel world she was living in.

Things would have continued in the same tragic fashion for Lilly and other bears of the troupes if not for Wildlife SOS the NGO that is by far the most successful animal rescue group in India. The organization rescued Lilly and bought her to the Bannerghatta Bear Rescue Centre near Bangalore.

Here, a team of British female vets who call themselves the Bear Repair Squad flew to India where they operated on Lily and gave her clear vision after 8 years of darkness and solitude.

The team operating on Lilly

The team works with the UK’s International Animal Rescue charity which gives the centre almost £500,000 a year. Not only has it provided £100,000 worth of medical equipment but it has also helped retrain locals to become farmers rather than beg for money with their dancing bears.

Claudia Hartley, the team leader and a leading veterinary eye specialist says quite rightly,

 “If you cannot better the economic conditions of those who exploited them in the first place, you are only partially solving the problem.”

Part of her team is anaesthesiologist Heather Bacon, Claudia Busse and Marian Matas. These female vets have been helping bears all over the world, sometimes restoring vision, sometimes treating them with other injuries.

But not all bears can be helped, says Heather.

‘Their eyes have simply deteriorated too far, and many suffer from detached retinas from blows they received around their heads.

Lilly's clouded eyes before the operation


But Lilly was among the fortunate few who could be helped. Her diseased tissue were removed using ultrasound and the team watched in satisfaction the computer screen as her clouded white eyes turned black again like magic.

Lilly is now happily living in the 27 acre wildlife reserve with other bears for company and for the first time in her life understanding the true meaning of freedom.

Dr Arun Sha, who runs the centre with the cooperation of the Indian Forestry Department, said: ‘Thanks to these ladies from England, my countrymen are slowly coming to regard our wildlife as a natural treasure, not a resource for exploitation.’

From witnessing the animal side of human nature to the kind hearted souls who rescued her and gave her vision back , in true sense Lilly, the sloth bear’s life has turned from darkness to hope.

-Atula Gupta

Article reference: dailymail  

Image courtesy Roger Allen via dailymail

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Why India is losing its Sloth Bears

About Atula Gupta

Atula Gupta is the Founder and Editor of Her work has appeared in a number of international websites, dailies and magazines including The Wire, Deccan Herald, New Indian Express, Down to Earth and Heritage India on issues related to environment and its conservation. She is also the author of Environment Science Essentials, a set of books for school children. She hopes this website provides a platform for people to be aware about species in the verge of extinction and heighten their conservation efforts.

3 thoughts on “British Vets give Eyesight Back to rescued Indian Bear

  1. It’s people like this who give me hope that there is still goodness in the world
    Next target Palm Oil producers
    Please keep up the good work x

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