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WPSA video
"Powerful landowners organise the fights"
 real 56k

Thursday, 4 January, 2001, 16:43 GMT
Pakistan's baited bears wait for rescue
Bear WSPA
Bear-baiting is illegal in Pakistan
By environment correspondent Alex Kirby

Animal welfare workers are urging Pakistan to rescue scores of bears being used to fight dogs.


The Pakistani authorities have ... raised endless bureaucratic obstacles in the way of taking action against bear baiting

Peter Henderson, WPSA
Bear-baiting is illegal under Pakistani law, but some authorities are reported to be allowing it to continue. Pakistan says it is determined to stamp out the practice, but that it needs more time.

It says it is certain that some bears will be rescued from the baiting gangs later this year.

The alarm was sounded by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), based in the UK. The society has spent more than 100,000 ($150,000) on the construction of a sanctuary for baited bears at Kund Park, in the North West Frontier province of Pakistan.

Savage punishment

WPSA says it built the sanctuary, which can house 40 to 50 animals, in response to a Pakistan Government request for somewhere to put the bears it promised to confiscate from owners.

Dog WSPA
Specially-trained dogs are used in the events
But the sanctuary, completed last May, still lies empty. Bear-baiting was introduced to Pakistan (then part of India) by the British colonisers two centuries ago.

It uses Asiatic black bears, estimated by WSPA to number perhaps fewer than 300 still in the wild in Pakistan. The adults are killed, and the cubs are sold to gypsies who use them to fight specially-trained dogs at events hosted by landlords in rural areas.

The bears, which have often had their teeth and claws removed, are tied to a stake. They seldom die during a fight, but suffer savage punishment from bites to their muzzles and ears.

Covert filming

The object of the fight is to see whether one of the two dogs can force the bear to roll over. The bear usually loses.

Bear WSPA
The bears often have their teeth and claws removed
WSPA estimates that up to 50 bear-baiting contests take place annually, between November and April. It says the practice is concentrated in parts of Punjab province, and in Sind and Baluchistan.

Peter Henderson of WSPA, who built the Kund Park sanctuary, filmed a bear fight at Khan Bela in Punjab on 16 November last year. He had left the area earlier in the day because of concerns for his security, but returned to fly over the fight in a light aircraft.

He said: "There were 14 bears defending themselves against pairs of dogs, more than 30 altogether. We flew low over the field, so low they had to stop. Then they began filming us."

'Bureaucratic obstacles'

WSPA says police officers were guarding the entrances to the field, and the authorities, despite advance warning, failed to enforce the law.


I am sure we shall see the first bears rescued from the baiters entering the WSPA sanctuary later this year

Ejaz Raja, Pakistan High Commission in London
It wants the Pakistani leader, General Pervez Musharraf, to issue a decree ordering the confiscation of all bears involved in baiting.

Peter Henderson said: "The Pakistani authorities have sent WSPA on a continual merry-go-round of false promises, and have raised endless bureaucratic obstacles in the way of taking action against bear baiting."

But the Pakistan High Commission in London said action would soon come.

Immediate investigation

The second secretary in the Commission's political section, Mr Ejaz Raja, told BBC News Online: "The necessary actions have been taken.

Bear WSPA
The practice is concentrated in parts of Punjab province, and in Sind and Baluchistan
"These events happen in rural areas, and it takes a little time for the measures to filter down.

"I don't accept WSPA's account of what happened in Khan Bela, because I'm sure it must have taken place quite illegally. But we'll ask our government for an immediate investigation.

"Bear-baiting is illegal in Pakistan, and I agree it's barbaric. I am sure we shall see the first bears rescued from the baiters entering the WSPA sanctuary later this year."

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See also:

25 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Sanctuary is a bear necessity
27 Jul 99 | Sci/Tech
Bears face extinction
24 Oct 98 | Europe
All the bear necessities
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