“It’s difficult for me to call this a job as it’s my passion. My association with the sanctuary bears is the most beautiful part of my work…”
Madeeha Manzoor believes she has one of the best jobs in the world. She is a zoologist – but sometimes laughingly describes herself as a bearologist – and works for our partner the Bioresource Research Centre (BRC) of Pakistan.
With the BRC team Madeeha is dedicated to bringing the horrific entertainment of bear baiting to an end and rescuing the bears which are so badly affected by it. After 12 years of working for BRC she is delighted with the progress that has been made.
“I remember when we used to work hard to motivate our teams; to convince them that our mission was possible. For a long time, we felt like we were in a Tom and Jerry game – cat and mouse – to find the bear baiting events and stop them. Sometimes we felt we were failing, but then after failure would come a series of victories that gave us great strength. And now we have achieved what was almost unimaginable.”
Team spirit: The Balkasar team and Madeeha share a working lunch.
Since 1997 your support has helped the BRC team battle against baiting. At that time around 300 bears were regularly being tethered to a post by a rope and set upon by dogs for the entertainment of gambling audiences.
Thanks to your generosity BRC has supported 61 bear owners to earn their living differently in exchange for handing over their animals. They have also convinced thousands of religious leaders to speak out against baiting in Friday prayers. Only four bear baiting events were believed to be held in 2016 – a massive tribute to BRC’s work. They are now working hard to free the 40 or so remaining bears used in this cruel and illegal sport which inflicts terrible injuries, pain and terror.
“I really don’t see how baiting could be enjoyment for any brain on earth,” says Madeeha.
Her work with BRC involves coordinating the different teams working on the bearbaiting project.
“I monitor their monthly tasks, create formal reports on their achievements and manage the funding.”
She travels around twice a month from BRC’s headquarters in Islamabad to the Balkasar sanctuary 120 kilometres away. These travels are also for research for her PhD on bear behaviour.
“I feel rejuvenated every time I go there and see happy bears, improving bears, recovering bears… My favourite bear is Galax, an Asiatic black bear. She was treated so badly, but is really happy now. I love the way she makes friends and is so carefree… Her introduction to the enclosure two years ago has helped some lonely bears get a friend; she gets them to play and enjoy life.”
And sometimes on her visits Madeeha is accompanied by her daughters – aged four and six. “It’s something that I offer them as a treat if they have accomplished something special. They always try to win the visit to Balkasar – they love to watch the bears so much.”
Madeeha is confident the future is looking brighter for Pakistan’s bears and wildlife generally…
“I can see that the culture is changing – it’s not just the young, but older people are now more aware of the need to save our wildlife and the pain that animals feel. We are turning into a more humane society.”
She explains that she and the BRC team are very aware that the work they do would not be possible without the work of World Animal Protection supporters and asked us to pass on this special message.
“We know you cannot meet or see us and we cannot meet or see you because of the distance between us. But every day we feel you supporting us and know that the things we do for bears are because of you. We want you to know this and hope you feel close to our work and everything you are helping us achieve.”
Happy release: Madeeha cuts the nose ring of a newly-rescued bear.
Free at last: Galax (right) and Alba (left) take their first steps into the beauty of Balkasar.