In 2013 rescuers were left heartbroken after they came across Goldie the bear on the Nepal border in India.
The 5-year-old bear was in a terrible condition – he was dehydrated and ill. He also had a rope tied through his nose that was causing him obvious pain.
The bear’s handlers had been using him as a “dancing bear” meaning Goldie was being forced into performing to crowds in exchange for money.
“When the bears are still tiny cubs, their captors make a hole through the top of their snout with a red-hot needle,” Lis Key, PR and communications manager for International Animal Rescue (IAR), explained.
“Then a rope is threaded up through their nostril and out through the hole. The aim is to control the bear and make it ‘dance’ by jerking on the rope.”
Captors do not let the bears’ wounds heal and allow them to stay raw so the bears respond better to pain.
“Sometimes thorns or even nails are knotted into the rope to cause even more pain,” Key said. “If the wound heals up, the handlers either reopen it or create a new one.”
Luckily for Goldie he was now in the rescuers sights so he would no longer have to live like this.
Dancing bears have been illegal in India since 2009, so the team from Wildlife SOS and the local police rescued Goldie and three other bears that were being kept in captivity.
Truffles, Kandi and Oreo — who were found in the same area.
It is thought the handlers had been trying to smuggle the bears into Nepal.
After the rescue mission, Goldie was transported safety at one of IAR’s bear sanctuaries in India which run alongside Wildlife SOS and Free the Bears Australia where he will live alongside many other bears.
Once he was in safe hands, one of the first things the rescuers did was remove the rope from Goldie’s nose. The wound remained open but it is hoped that it would eventually heal.
This wasn’t Goldie’s only injury – he also had terrible teeth and gums which is thought to have been caused by the abuse he suffered.
“It seems Goldie’s handler had made several attempts to knock his teeth out to make him easier to control, and left him with terrible broken and infected teeth and gums,” Key said.
Not only this, but a veterinary team discovered that the bear was in fact blind. “It is either a result of the chafing of the rope across his eyes or from malnutrition, or blows to his head,” Key said.
While the vets couldn’t bring back her vision they could work on treating his gums and teeth.
After some TLC Goldie was transformed into a completely different bear. He could finally enjoy food – porridge was one of his favourites, he could clear a bowl and help his bear friends out with theres.
“Goldie is very mischievous and loves to try to steal food from the other bears’ dens before they get to it,” Key said. “He eats his porridge and honey with relish and particularly enjoys treats of coconut chunks and dates.”
“He likes digging up insects in the termite mounds and lounging in his hammock during the heat of the day,” Key added. “He’s very possessive of the hammock and will tussle with Rocky bear, who often tries to share it,” Key added.
Goldie is now in a great place and is surrounded by friends. For the rest of his life he will get all of the food, water and love he will ever need. And more importantly he will never have to “dance” on the streets again.