Tragedy struck at the Sanjay-Dubri Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh’s Sidhi district when a seven-year old sloth bear and her two-month old cub were electrocuted while they were looking for food. The resultant injuries took the life of the mother leaving the young cub orphaned.
Madhya Pradesh Forest Department officials report that a high-voltage trap was set up by six poachers from the local tribal population on the lookout for meat. This proved fatal for the sloth bear.
Sloth bears like many other species is a dwindling population owing to poaching and habitat loss. The species is listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Redlist and is protected under Section I of the Wildlife Protection Act.
The tragic episode took place in the first week of February in the southern end of the tiger reserve, where the mother and cub were out in search of food. The mother bear, paralysed down the waist was immediately given the best of care in the intensive care unit, but later succumbed to the injuries. The cub recovered quickly from the shock and the forest officials took the help of the NGO, Wildlife SOS.
Prompt action by the forest officials helped nab the poachers. Sniffer dogs were set on the trail of the poachers from the scene of the tragedy and led them all the way to the poachers’ home. Similar equipment found at their house proved to be further evidence of their involvement in the misdeed and they confessed to their offence.
To prevent such incidents in the future, patrolling has been intensified and camera traps set up across the park.
“We have increased patrolling across the reserve and set up camera traps across the park to avoid such incidents.” said Dileep Kumar, field director, Sanjay-Dubri Tiger Reserve.
To ensure that the young male cub was given proper care, written orders to transfer the young bear to Wildlife SOS’ Agra Bear Rescue Facility in Uttar Pradesh was made. According to the veterinarian, Wildlife SOS, the bear cub is under a lot of trauma and is being kept under constant medical observation.
The Sanjay-Dubri Tiger Reserve, covering about 466 square kilometres is home to 365 sloth bears, 15 tigers and over 30 leopards. That the poachers have resorted to such cruel and brutal methods has shocked the co-founder of Wildlife SOS, Geetha Seshamani. She demands that the offenders be punished so as to deter others from poaching.
Policy Changes needed
According to senior forest officials from MO, poaching incidents have increased over the past two years and want policy changes implemented to protect the animals.
“We have already written to the chief secretary of MP to implement policy changes under the MP forest act to increase deterrence in such cases. The agricultural department has also been informed to tell the tribal population that hunting animals for meat is a serious offence,” said RP Singh, assistant principal chief conservator of forests (APCCF)-wildlife, Madhya Pradesh forest department.
More on the Sloth bear
Sloth bear (Melursus ursinus) or the labiated bear is a nocturnal animal native to tall grasslands across India, Sri Lanka, southern Nepal and Bhutan. It has a dusty black, shaggy coat and curved claws and can grow up to six feet tall. During a lifespan of up to 25 years, they mostly consume ants, other insects and fruits being specially adapted to be able to eat ants and termites. The species is classified as ‘Vulnerable’ under International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) and is steadily declining.
The cub, identified as a male, is naturally severely traumatised and will require constant medical observation. This young bear has been robbed of his chance to life a life of freedom in the wild as it is in the first 18-24 months of their lives that sloth bear cubs pick up the skills and natural instincts from their mothers that they require to survive in the wild. He is scared and yearning for his mother’s presence and is currently at our separate cub weaning unit under the full time care of a keeper. We are currently feeding him special milk formula along with multivitamin supplements, as he is still unable to ingest solid food. He is eating well and has even put on a few pounds.