Page last updated at 15:44 GMT, Wednesday, 25 June 2008 16:44 UK

Heartbreak over cub confiscation

By Sanjaya Jena

Ramesh Munda and Rani
An inseparable bond developed between man and bear

A tribal man in India who rescued an abandoned bear cub to help his daughter overcome her mother's death has fallen foul of forestry officials.

They confiscated the animal arguing that its capture was in contravention of wildlife laws.

As a result, Ramesh Munda, 35, was briefly jailed and the bear was sent to a zoo where some reports say it has refused to eat.

His daughter is now distraught over the loss of a "much-loved" family friend.

Mutual affection

Mr Munda, who is also known as Ram Singh, rescued Rani almost two years ago from the dense forest of Keonjhar in the eastern state of Orissa.

From the moment the cub was recovered, both man and animal appeared to develop an unusual bond of love.

Ramesh Munda, Rani the bear and daughter Gulki
Mr Munda says that he had a happy family

Such was the level of affection between the bear and Mr Munda's family, that the local press began to write stories about this rare example of mutual affection.

But Orissa forestry department officials were not so sentimental.

Keonjhar district forest officials arrested and jailed him under the Wildlife Protection Act and sent Rani to Nandankanan Zoological Park.

Now both man and animal are pining to be reunited, with the bear reportedly refusing to eat any food.


Recently released on bail, Mr Munda is desperately looking for an opportunity to visit Nandankanan and spend a few moments with Rani.

"I brought her up like my own daughter Gulki. I'm eager to meet her," he said.

Little Gulki, who spent her childhood with Rani, is also shedding tears over the absence of her furry friend.

She has now been reunited with her father after his time in prison, but the pair are pining for Rani.


Nandankanan Zoo director Ajit Patnaik insisted that Rani was doing well in the zoo.

"She is absolutely well and taking her normal food. If Ram Singh wants to meet the bear, we can allow him," he said.

Mr Munda stumbled upon the newborn bear during one of his regular visits to the forest to collect firewood.

The cub had been deserted by its mother.

Mr Munda fed it and the animal ate, drank and slept with father and daughter. The trio have even been seen riding around on a bicycle.

The tale of the confiscated cub has evoked strong protests from wildlife activists, who accuse officials of hypocrisy.

"The rights of animals and reptiles to live a life of freedom in their natural surroundings in the dense forests of the state are being illegally violated by the zoo authorities," Wildlife Society of Orissa secretary Biswajit Mohanty said.

India's Wildlife Protection Act stipulates that only a wild animal dangerous to human life or which is diseased or disabled beyond recovery can be kept in captivity.

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