FOUR PAWS team and black bears in a Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre in Islamabad, Pakistan

Pakistan: FOUR PAWS Helps Bears Cruelly Exploited for Baiting and Dancing

Swift government action aims to end illegal bear keeping practices in the country


Islamabad/Vienna, 5 April 2024 – Global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS has returned to Pakistan on 5 April upon urgent request of the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB). A team of FOUR PAWS veterinarians and wildlife experts will support the Pakistani wildlife authorities with the veterinary treatment and neutering of eight resident bears in a local rescue centre, as well as the planned rescue and relocation of new confiscated bears from bear baiting, dancing, and breeding activities. The cruel practices violate local animal welfare regulations and cause massive animal suffering. In cooperation with the Pakistani government, FOUR PAWS aims to end illegal bear keeping practices in the country.

IWMB’s Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre in Islamabad so far is housing eight Asiatic black bears rescued from illegal private keeping as dancing bears. The FOUR PAWS experts will examine and treat the bears already located at the rescue centre. The focus will be on implementing measures to prevent breeding among the rescued bears. The expert team will also provide recommendations to ensure the future high quality and species-appropriate care of all the bears. Moreover, FOUR PAWS is awaiting a pending court decision that will decide the fate of four Asiatic black bear cubs in need in the province of Punjab.

“It is crucial to assess the health of all bears and our priority to neuter them to prevent unwanted breeding. That way we can ensure ethical wildlife management going forward. We are grateful for the trust of the Pakistani authorities in our expertise and committed to improve the lives of as many bears as possible. We will also support the preparation of enclosures for the new arrivals at the rescue centre and ensure proper care for all animals going forward,” says FOUR PAWS veterinarian Dr Amir Khalil, who leads the action in Pakistan.

“In our decades-long work to help exploited and abused bears around the world, we have seen the terrible suffering that bears mistreated for human entertainment must endure, such as baiting or dancing. FOUR PAWS welcomes the action the Pakistani government is taking against such cruel practices, and we are happy to work together on this important cause. With our successful collaboration FOUR PAWS aims to find sustainable long-term solutions for the animals and help law enforcement to effectively put an end to the illegal practices of dancing bears and bear baiting in Pakistan,”

Josef Pfabigan, CEO and President of FOUR PAWS.

The cruel exploitation of bears for human entertainment

Bear baiting remains a distressing reality where bears are subjected to cruel fights against trained dogs for entertainment, despite being illegal. This practice inflicts severe physical and psychological trauma on the bears, often resulting in broken teeth, pierced snouts, and the removal of claws. Dancing bears are captive or bred bears forced to perform tricks for entertainment. Training methods include painful measures like hot metal plates and metal rings through sensitive noses and jaws, allowing owners to exert control over the bears.

In Pakistan, bear dancing and bear baiting are age-old traditions introduced to the local society as a sport by the British. Bear baiting was arranged by landlords for their personal enjoyment or at village carnivals in remote areas of Punjab. While such practices of animal exploitation have been shunned and banned worldwide, they have been continued in all their cruelty in the province of Punjab. An increasing number of incidents have been reported recently, thus the responsible Pakistani authorities have initiated vigorous action against the cruel practice. Pinpointing the exact number of illegally kept bears for entertainment in Punjab is difficult due to clandestine activities. Estimates range from several dozen to over a hundred. These bears are captured as cubs and often released back into the wild due to old age or injury – many die of starvation as they never learned how to hunt for food or had their claws and teeth removed.

For more information on the efforts taken by FOUR PAWS to help bears across the world from cruel and illegal forms of keeping for the last 25 years, find out more here.

FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. 

Share now!