GUWAHATI, May 8 � Three orphaned Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus) cubs were moved to the wild by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) in Manas National Park recently.
The orphaned cubs were found last December in three different villages in the fringes of the park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With their mothers presumably killed, the cubs were captured and handed over to the Forest department and IFAW-WTI for care and rehabilitation. To date, IFAW-WTI has rehabilitated 31 Asiatic black bear cubs in the northeastern States of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
Normally, the cubs are hand-reared, and following a gradual acclimatisation process involving daily walks into the forest accompanied by animal keepers, released back into the wild.
�These three cubs will undergo a different release methodology,� said Dr Bhaskar Choudhury, IFAW-WTI Regional Head, Northeast India. �The �soft-release� is applicable to cubs brought under human care at a very young age. These cubs were all nearly a year-old when admitted.�
The cubs are currently in an in situ enclosure fabricated at the release site in the Doimari range. They will then be radio-collared and released from the enclosure. The cubs are monitored post-release for a period of around six months with the help of radio-collars.
�Following their release, we will be monitoring their survival and foraging pattern,� said Dr Panjit Basumatary, IFAW-WTI veterinary surgeon, adding that the bears were healthy and aggressive, indicating their wild nature.
The number of Asiatic black bear cub rescues indicates a worrisome trend in the Northeast. Poaching for body parts, predominantly bile, habitat degradation, and conflicts with people are known to be among the major threats to bears in general. The Asiatic black bear is classified as �vulnerable� in the IUCN Red List of threatened species, and is protected under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.