Three endangered sloth bears were rescued from the Indo-Nepal border as poachers were trying to smuggle them into India.
On the information provided by Delhi-based NGO Wildlife SOS, the Jharkhand police and state forest department carried out a raid rescued the bears and arrested poachers involved in the racket, a statement issued by the NGO said.
The bears, two male and one female, have been transferred to the Agra Bear Rescue facility in Uttar Pradesh which is the largest rehabilitation centre in the world for sloth bears.
The Agra Bear Rescue Facility is run by Wildlife SOS in collaboration with the UP Forest Department, it said.
"We are trying out best to stop the illegal poaching," Rupak De, Chief Wildlife Warden, UP said.
"It is suspected that the poachers brought the bear cubs from different parts in India (states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Orissa) and then hid these cubs in Nepal until they were big enough for sale and then brought them into India to sell them," the statement said.
The six hours long anti-poaching operation on Thursday last was carried out using a convoy of six vehicles, including a large police van, with about 20 police officers in addition to 15 forest officers and Wildlife SOS personnel.
"The poachers were caught hiding in Giridih district with the three bears. At one point, it became very difficult for us to control the crowd and take the bears to a safe location.
"An unruly mob gathered around the poachers to protect them from the police and even tried to torch the police vehicle," Baiju Raj of Wildlife SOS said.
Sloth bears are highly endangered and are only found in the Indian subcontinent with a small population in Nepal and Bhutan. The animals have been used for centuries as dancing and performing bears, an activity banned by the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.