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Last Updated: Monday, 24 December 2007, 11:50 GMT
Charity seeks to save more bears
Dancing bear in India
The dancing bears are kept captive on the end of a rope
An East Sussex animal charity trying to eradicate dancing bears from the streets of India has said it is half-way to completing its mission.

Uckfield-based International Animal Rescue funds a sanctuary in India which is celebrating its fifth anniversary.

The Agra Bear Sanctuary first opened its doors on 24 December 2002 when it took in six dancing bears, and has since gone on to rescue 420 bears.

Spokeswoman Liz Key said there were still 350 bears out on the streets.

'Pain and trauma'

"They're still suffering," she said.

"We've got another push now, so that in the next two years we hope, in 2010, there will be no more dancing bears on the streets of India.

"That's the plan."

More than half the rescued bears are housed in the Agra sanctuary, near the Taj Mahal, while the rest are cared for in two other sanctuaries in central and southern India.

Alan Knight, chief executive of IAR, added: "From humble beginnings five years ago the Agra sanctuary has grown into a centre of excellence for the rescue and rehabilitation of dancing bears.

There will always be a special place in our hearts for those first bears we took in
Alan Knight, IAR

"We started with six frightened and traumatised bears that had been kept captive on the end of a rope ever since they were taken from the wild as cubs.

"When we removed the ropes their first reaction was bewilderment and fear.

"There will always be a special place in our hearts for those first bears we took in."

Mr Knight said the sanctuary now had more than 100 acres where the bears could roam freely and "leave behind the pain and trauma of their lives on the streets".

"The biggest celebration will be when there are no more dancing bears in India because they are all safely in our care."

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