For fifteen years Holly the sloth bear was forced to dance for tourists. Forced by a handler that strung a rope through a hole punctured through her muzzle with a hot poker. Forced into submission and misery by the fact that her teeth were knocked out with a hammer, leaving sores and infection in her mouth. Tourists may have found this amusing for a few minutes, but Holly had to suffer long years until help arrived.
Though the forests of Southeast Asia are quickly dwindling, the sloth bear somehow finds a way to survive. Holly’s mother was not one of the lucky. Instead of growing up in security, learning and finding comfort, Holly was ripped from her mother’s dead body, murdered by poachers. This bear that evolved to be a nocturnal forest dweller was now destined for a life on the hot streets of India, performing under threat of violence and starvation.
Rescue came for Holly in 2003. Wildlife SOS offered sanctuary, medical treatment, and a new beginning. Though she will never live the life she was born for, she now has enough food, medical care for her weak joints and wounds, and an attachment to a keeper that gently helps her feed and cares for her well-being, representing the other side of humanity. Now at the Agra Bear Rescue Facility, Holly can live out her life in peace but still needs support to provide her with proper care.
Through the efforts of Wildlife SOS and others, the dancing bear industry is thought to be finished in India. Once numbering in the thousands, performing bears like Holly don’t have to suffer the torture and degradation. But poaching for food and Chinese medicine continues and animals as tourist attractions persist all over Southeast Asia.
Though this story has a happy ending, it doesn’t for many other bears and animals in the performance industry. And it’s not just on the other side of the world: animal cruelty is right here in our own backyard. As individuals we can educate ourselves about what’s going on. As tourists we can refuse to support dancing bears, elephant rides, tiger temples, and similar gimmicks that torture these creatures. We can also donate to International Animal Rescue or Wildlife SOS and support the rescue efforts!