The Punjab Wildlife Department rescued two bears from bear-baiting during a raid in Bahawalpur.
The bears had been illegally kept by a man, identified as Allahyar, at his temporary residence in Yazman. The man was arrested. The wildlife department had received information about a bear being kept in captivity in the area after which a team was sent to survey the area, Wildlife Deputy Director Zahid Ali told a private TV channel.
After a few days, the team was informed of the presence of a bear in Yazman. When they went to raid the place, they found two bears in a cage.
A case has been filed against Allahyar for violating sections 11 (animals found dead or killed or caught unlawfully), 12 (certificate of lawful possession) and 21 (penalties) of the wildlife act, Assistant Director Muhammad Abrar said.
The suspect was released after a Yazman court approved his bail plea against a sum of Rs20,000.
Allahyar’s lawyer argued that the bear was owned by a man identified as Haji Tahir, adding that Tahir had a licence that allowed him to hold bears captive. The two men have been told to submit the documents at the next hearing on February 16.
The wildlife department officials told the court that the cabinet passed a law two months ago in which such licences were declared illegal and invalid.
Last month, the department had rescued two bears from Chishtian and Bahawalnagar. Two men were arrested and a fine of Rs10,000 each was imposed on them.
What about the bears?
The two rescued bears have been moved to the Bahawalpur zoo temporarily. The department is, however, making arrangements for them to be moved to a suitable place.
Abrar said that they can’t be kept at the zoo because of capacity issues. “These bears need a lot of care and attention,” Abrar remarked. “We can’t release them because these bears don’t know how to defend themselves. Their canine teeth are removed when they are just cubs.”
He hoped to keep the pair in the custody of the department to ensure their medical checkup and overall care.
The government now has a strict stance on animal cruelty, said Ali, adding that bears have been named “protected animals” in the province. This means that no one can hold them captive.
The law says that all protected animals must be confiscated by the department, and a fine of between Rs10,000 to Rs15,000 is imposed on violators. They can be imprisoned for up to a year.