Campaign: Set me free
Client: Wildlife SOS
WPP company: JWT Contract Delhi
For over 400 years Indian sloth bear cubs have been captured from the wild and trained by bear handlers called Kalanders to ‘dance’ for entertainment. The cubs endure great cruelty, including having their teeth wrenched out and their muzzles punctured. Despite a ban in place since 1972 the practice continued until 2009, leaving thousands of bears in need of rehabilitation.
In 2009, animal welfare charity Wildlife SOS (which rescued the last dancing bear in 2009) asked JWT Contract Delhi to create a pro bono campaign to raise awareness and funds for their rescue centres.
The agency developed a sustainable fundraising model where they commissioned a vocational trainer to teach 117 Kalanders and their families how to make stuffed replicas of the sloth bear. The agency then planned an event in an upmarket department store in New Delhi where the bears were displayed with a noose around their muzzle and a placard reading “Set me free”. People could then buy one of the toys, remove the chains and set it free.
The department store has now given Wildlife SOS a permanent space to sell products made by the Kalanders, providing an alternative living for 177 Kalander families and helping to protect the sloth bear.