Christian Long

Kartick Satyanarayan: How We Rescued the Dancing Bears

In TED Talks on April 18, 2010 at 3:57 pm

Reflection by SYLVIA A.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Kartick Satyanarayan:  How We Rescued the Dancing Bears

Well, the first thing that caught my eye about this video is…really nothing. This was one of my video choices that I wasn’t very passionate about initially. Yes, it did feature cute baby cubs, but I was looking for something more substantial in my video selections.

After watching it, I’m so glad it became one of my videos because it really did open my eyes to something I didn’t even know existed.

Besides the fact that these cubs are adorable, this is a very heartwarming story. Wildlife SOS discovered how these bears were being illegally harvested and captured during infancy. They were then treated cruelly and trained brutally to become a form of entertainment for people by “dancing”. They discovered all of this information undercover, beginning in 1995, through secret missions and posing as prospective buyers. As they gained more and more evidence they were able to convict the criminals of maltreatment of these poor animals.

Although this story is very compelling, I feel an even deeper underlying story is the condition of the Kalandar community in India, where these types of practices were taking place.

The poverty and unemployment of the Kalandar community must have been so overwhelming that the people were forced into this form of animal cruelty as their only means of survival. When your last options are either having you and your family starve to death because you can’t financially support them, or capturing animals and selling them, it is obvious the choice you would make. One of the most infamous traders turned out to be just two 18 year old parents trying to support their family of 6.

Wildlife SOS understood this. They took it into consideration when trying to figure out a way to solve this problem. If they would have just taken out the current traders, a new group of traders would have developed. Because this practice had been going on for centuries you can just stop it, you must reform it and put an end to the problems, such as poverty, that cause these people to rely on this form of economic income.

With all of these factors taken into consideration, Wildlife SOS put their plan into motion. Without knowing if this solution would work, they provided the traders with funds that would enable them to start long-standing, stable businesses of their own. This was repeated and the occurring trend was that these people did not use the money corruptly or return to trading. They actually began making an honest living for themselves and their families. Following this system, Wildlife SOS began helping the women and children of the Kalandar community. They made it possible for the women who were previously limited to domestic work, to interact in mainstream society and business. Along with that they funded schools for children to ensure them an education that had been robbed from them, by having to help their families with income during the times of bear trading.

As Wildlife SOS came into contact with more and more bears it became apparent they were not only helping the cubs, but the community as well. As they rehabilitated the beaten and brutalized bears, they rehabilitated a whole community and gave the hope of a better future to both.

This is what I found most amazing about this video, both species living in harmony and benefitting from one organization that decided to make a change.

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