Two Bears Rescued After Years of Cruel Punishment And Being Forced To Dance

The last of Nepal's infamous dancing bears have finally been released from their suffering. During an overnight, collaborative effort of law enforcement, the Jane Goodall Institute Nepal, and the World Animal Protection, 19-year-old Rangila and 17-year-old Sridevi—both of whom are sloth bears—were rescued from their owners, according to a statement from the World Animal Protection.

"After a year of tracking them, using our own intelligence and in cooperation with local police, our hard effort and dedication has helped to bring an end to this illegal tradition in Nepal," Manoj Gautam, the executive director of Jane Goodall Institute Nepal, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reports.

The tradition of taking bears from the wild and forcing them to dance as a means of entertainment and begging dates back to at least the 19th century. The practice has since stopped in many European and Asian countries, but it still continues in Pakistan, according to National Geographic.

"The sad reality is there are more wild animals suffering across the world just to entertain people," Gautam told National Geographic. "However, for these two sloth bears at least, a happy ending is finally in sight."

Dancing bears endure cruel lives of being tortured by their handlers. Rangila and Sridevi both had a hot needle pierced through their noses by their handlers—Mohammad Salman and Mohammad Momtaz—in order to control them. For years, the poor animals were fed a limited diet of only milk and rice. Despite this, they remained in decent health when they were found, National Geographic reports. However, they were visibly traumatized.

"You could clearly see the stereotypic behavior, their psychological trauma. They were sucking their paws, jump up and down on benches," Gautam said.

Nepal's last known dancing bear is rescued

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It's unknown exactly what other horrendous acts the animals suffered through, but often, dancing bears are punished by being placed on hot coals, Mary Hutton, founder of Free the Bears, explained to ABC.

"Rangira and Sridvei have suffered for too long in captivity since they were poached from the wild," Neil D'Cruze, a wildlife expert at the World Animal Protection, said in a statement.

The bears are now under temporary care at Parsa National Park in Nepal and will be transported to a permanent home in the near future. Their handlers were not arrested or fined for their actions. Instead, they just received a warning and were forced to sign legal documents citing more serious punishments if they were caught with dancing bears again.