Indian man jailed for keeping sloth bear as pet
This is not a happy story.
It all began last year, when Ram Singh Munda found an orphaned bear
cub in the woods and brought it home to console his 6-year-old daughter
after the death of his wife.
"The bear and I used to eat together and have fun. The bear was
taking care of me," Goki, the daughter, tells The Times of India.
"My father use to take both of us on his cycle. The bear never harmed
When the story of the sloth bear appeared in a newspaper, IBN
says government officials ordered Munda to return the sloth bear to the
wild. He complied, but the bear, named Rani, returned home the next day.
"The Forest Department then forcibly took Rani away and handed her
over to the Nandankanan Zoo near Bhubaneswar. Ram was arrested and sent
to Keonjhar jail for violating the Wildlife Protection Act, which
forbids people from keeping wild animals," IBN reports.
This is not a simple story.
Some activists described Munda's motivations as anything but pure.
"This is the fifth case we have come across in the last one year
where these tribals kill the mother, take the baby and sell it to the
madaris of Mevat or it goes to Nepal. I am saying that he should get the
absolute harshest sentence possible," former environment minister Maneka
Gandhi tells CNN-IBN.
Munda faces criminal charges. He was released on bail last night,
according to The Hindu.
As for the bear, she's being kept at a zoo, where the Associated
Press says she has been refusing to eat without her master.
Response from Steve Stringham
I would never condone anyone killing a mother bear to get her cubs,
whether for research, companionship or sale. However, once a cub is
orphaned, raising it with affection and constant social interaction is
far more "humane" -- or should we say "ursane" or just plain "sane" --
then condemning it to a zoo. Speaking as someone who has wild-raised
orphaned cubs and helped them become self-sufficient in the wild, I can
only wish that had been the fate of this sloth bear -- a species all to
rare in the wild.
Ideally, it should be turned over to one of India's sloth bear
researchers who could have mentored it like I mentored my cubs and as
Ben Kilham and Charlie Russell mentored theirs. (The family who raised
the cub might be employed on the project.) This is a rare opportunity to
learn a great deal about sloth bears that could benefit the relatively
small number still surviving in the wilds. If any of you know the name
of a sloth bear researcher, please pass this message along. Meanwhile, I
will dig through my own files and try to find a few contacts.
Steve Stringham, Director
Bear Communication & CoExistence Research Program