Hand-raised Asiatic bear cubs released into the wild

May 31st, 2009 - 12:41 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, May 30 (IANS) Three Asiatic black bear cubs have been released into the wild in Assam’s Manas National Park after being hand-raised by an animal keeper as part of a technique experts say has helped save numerous wild animals in the past.
The orphaned cubs were hand-raised at a field station run by the NGOs Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) after they were rescued by the Assam forest department from different places in the state last year.

The cubs are about one-and-a-half years old.

After spending some time at the field station, the cubs were shifted to an acclimatisation camp in Doimari forest range in Manas, where the bears honed various skills such as identifying natural food and keeping away from predators, among others, necessary for their survival in the wild.

“Unlike in the initial stages of their rehabilitation, the bears haven’t returned to the acclimatisation camp. We have been tracking them with the help of radio-collars fitted on their necks,” said veterinarian Bhaskar Choudhury, in-charge of the project.

“The supplementary food was then gradually reduced to encourage natural food intake,” Choudhury said.

“The bears, following natural instincts, began sleeping outdoors and their dependence on their keeper reduced. Although concentrate feed was made available, they showed greater inclination towards a natural diet, which was good news. We then radio-collared them anticipating their freedom,” WTI said in a statement here Saturday, citing Choudhury.

As they grew more independent, the bears stopped visiting the camp, which was more noticeable late last month. Currently, the bears have moved into Bhutanese territory, which is close to the acclimatisation camp. “We are in contact with the authorities in Bhutan to design a collaborative plan to keep track of these bears,” Choudhury said.

Earlier, seven other Asiatic black bear cubs have been released by WTI and IFAW, using the same technique, in Pakke Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh in collaboration with the forest department. In the recent past, hand-raised rhino and elephant calves have also been released in the wild using the same technique.

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