After spending 15 hours trapped in a poacher's snare, a sloth bear in India's Karnataka state is roaming the wilderness once more thanks to the work of a local wildlife rescue group.

The injured animal was initially spotted by local villagers, who reported the sighting to the area's forest department. Soon afterwards, an emergency call was made to Wildlife S.O.S, an organisation that deals with injured and displaced wildlife across India.

"We were shocked to find a wire snare intertwined around the animal's waist," said the Wildlife S.O.S team in a Facebook update.

A rescue team led by veterinarian Dr Arun A Sha first tranquilised the bear before working for two gruelling hours to remove the wire. "The snare was made of a modified clutch wire, reinforced with a fence wire intertwined around the bear's waist," Sha told The Times of India.


Judging by her condition, the female bear, around four or five years old, had been trapped for many hours before help arrived. Luckily, her injuries were not serious. After receiving treatment and a medical checkup, the bear was successfully released into the nearby Thimmalapura State Reserve Forest.

India's Karnataka state has a large population of sloth bears, but the species has lost much of its habitat here to human encroachment, and conflicts often flare up between the bears and local villagers. Despite legal protections, the animals are also threatened by poaching for their body parts, which are used in Chinese medicines and gourmet cuisine in South-East Asia, says the group.

"Wildlife S.O.S has in the last decade successfully carried out many rescue operations in the states of Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, where these bears are often found injured in snare traps or with bullet shots by poachers."

And poachers' tactics can be extremely brutal. Just last month, Wildlife S.O.S rescued a male sloth bear suffering from extensive head and jaw injuries caused by crude explosives concealed in food bait. While these baits are often used to kill wild boar and other game, sloth bears are also being targeted.

The sloth bear (Melursus ursinus) stands out among the world's bear species thanks to its shaggy coat, long muzzle and all-insect diet. Once abundant across the Indian subcontinent, it's now listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN, and trade in bear parts in banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).


Top header image: Brett/Flickr