Sloth bear escapes from Bhopal national park

January 31st, 2009 - 6:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhopal, Jan 31 (IANS) A sloth bear that escaped from the Van Vihar National Park here Friday has forest officials in a tizzy as the animal could not be traced despite a nightlong search. The bear was lodged at the park’s Bear Rescue Centre run by Wildlife SOS, an NGO, under an agreement with the forest department. “It managed to come out of the enclosure through a weak link,” park sources said, adding that the escape was detected by officials.

The Van Vihar has a six-feet wall with a six-feet chain link fencing that forms a boundary around the park.

“What is however of bigger concern for the park authorities is that the bear can easily cross the boundary and enter human habitations on the other side,” said a park official.

“Most of the staffers were at home on their weekly off Friday, and had to be rushed to the park on hearing about the incident, but their night-long efforts to trace the bear bore no fruits,” he said.

Park authorities who immediately launched patrolling in vehicles fitted with searchlights to search for the bear did see it twice but could not manage to tranquilise it due to low visibility. “In case we fail to tranquilise the animal, a decision might be taken to shoot it,” he said.

The park has 37 bears - 18 males, 14 females and five cubs - rescued under the Wildlife Protection Act from the custody of their nomadic masters, better known as Kalandars or bear trainers who make the animals perform tricks. The animals were kept in the rescue centre run by Wildlife SOS, which has hired special caretakers and a veterinary doctor to look after the animals, most of them Himalayan sloth bears.

Van Vihar Assistant Director A.K. Khare said the park staffers could not he held responsible since the entire responsibility of managing the bears is with Wildlife SOS.

This is the third time a bear has managed to escape from the rescue centre. However, on the previous two escapes, the bears were caught by the park’s rescue squad.

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