Care for a bear? Villagers pluck terrified animal from tall tree


An epic rescue mission this week to save a sloth bear screaming in pain from a poacher’s wire trap stands in glad contrast to news of threatened species – such as the recent case of a black leopard – being killed by poachers. The sloth bear was first spotted by a villager in his chena in the Aliwala area of Sithulpawwa in Yala. The animal, possibly disoriented by pain from the wire snarled around his body is thought to have climbed all the way up a palu tree that is nearly 30 feet tall.

And down came the bear. Pic by Janath de Silva

The bear could not climb down and was screaming, so the villagers informed Wildlife Officers who rushed to the scene.
The problem was that the panicked bear showed no sign of getting down from the tall tree. The area veterinary surgeon Dr. W.A. Dharmakeerthi was called in but it was judged too risky to shoot the bear with a tranquilliser dart as it could have fallen to its death.

Ignoring the risk of being mauled, two villagers volunteered to bring the bear down from the tree if it was tranquillised, so Dr. Dharmakeerthi decided to have a try. It was not an easy task to target a bear up a tall tree but Dr. Dharmakeerthi, a veteran wildlife veterinarian, took aim and fired the tranquilliser drugs.

In a few minutes the bear had stopped moving, and the two men who had volunteered to bring it down quickly climbed the tree to bring down the animal before it could fall. There was a risk that the bear had not been completely sedated but with the noble aim of saving the life of a bear that had fallen victim to human cruelty the two men kept on with their mission.

After making sure the bear was completely unconscious they tied a rope around it and then carefully descended with the now completely unconscious creature. There was a general sigh of relief when the bear was brought to earth. The vet and wildlife officers removed the wire trap entangled around its belly and treated its wounds. The bear was a well-grown animal aged around 10 years and weighed about 50kg.

The sloth bear has been released to a safer patch of forest. Dr. Dharmakeerthi said it was the first time he had taken part in a “bear rescue”. He said many animals, including a number of leopards, had fallen victim to wire traps set up mainly to kill animals such as wild boar.

published on SundayTimes on 01.12.2013 

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