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Delhi’s bear conference awards UK NGO

A small UK charity based in Sussex has been honoured at an International Conference on bear conservation in Delhi for bringing an end to the dancing bear trade in India. The award comes almost ten years to the day from the start of the Dancing Bear Rescue Project which aimed to remove all the dancing bears from the streets of India. The Minister of the Environment and Forests presented the Bear Freedom Award to Alan Knight, Chief Executive of International Animal Rescue in front of 400 conference delegates from around the world. A special stamp has also been produced to commemorate the occasion. International Animal Rescue and Indian partners Wildlife SOS successfully ended the dancing bear trade in India in 2009 when Raju, the last dancing bear, was surrendered by his Kalandar owner and brought into the Bannerghatta Bear Rescue Centre near Bangalore. This was the culmination of a project that began on Christmas Eve 2002 when the first rescue centre, the Agra Bear Rescue Facility, took in the first rescued bears. ‘We couldn’t do any of our work without the support of the UK public and we’re really grateful to Daily Mirror readers for donating generously to help us rescue the dancing bears off the streets,’ Alan Knight, Chief Executive of International Animal Rescue, said. The conference has announced a National Bear Conservation and Welfare Action Plan. The strategy will help protect bear populations in the 26 Indian states where they are found in the wild and tackle the main issues threatening bears including illegal trade in bear body parts and bear cubs, reducing human-bear conflicts, retaliatory bear killings and habitat loss. ‘We are delighted that the conference in India will bring focus on bear conservation and we hope our efforts of the last decade in partnership with Wildlife SOS will set a good example of sloth bear welfare and conservation,’ Knight said. Since ending the trade, International Animal Rescue has worked hard to keep the bears happy and healthy. Raising sufficient funds to feed the hundreds of hungry mouths presents a huge and constant challenge. ‘I can’t deny I’ve had my share of sleepless nights worrying about meeting the costs of this project,’ he said. ‘Thankfully, so far the generosity of the public has seen us through and I hope will continue to do so.’
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