Is there light at the end of the tunnel?
It wasn't all doom and gloom, one of the parks visited, Bear Mountain, was created following advice from the previous investigations. This park offered natural, large enclosures with plenty of vegetation, pools and shelter for the bears to use and hide in. Staff were friendly and helpful and the environment had been created to respect the animals within it. Another park, Ani in Kitaakita, had recently created a brown bear enclosure - still muddy from being so new, there was at least mud for the bears to walk on. It hosted two deep pools, a shelter and climbing frames. Although lacking in natural vegetation, one can hope with time this will be included. No public feeding was allowed, allowing the bears to express their natural behavior, which they did by taking long dips in the pools and foraging. Unfortunately, with 17 brown bears at the park only a few can go in at a time, so some still remained shut indoors for hours at an end. However, the fact that this facility had been created is progress and shows change can happen.
Sadly though, for now, many hundreds of bears still are suffering in deplorable conditions. Changing attitudes and actions is extremely difficult, so how can this investigation actually help the bears? An investigation like this can provide up-to-date information on the extremely concerning welfare concerns for over 400 bears being held in Japanese bear parks. It can be used to approach the Environment Ministry about enacting legislation and standards that protect the welfare for all captive wild animals in Japan. It can also connect an ever growing team of animal welfare non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Japan and help develop the capacity to work on captive wild animal initiatives. Investigators can also approach individual bear parks, requesting immediate improvements for the bears, using evidence from the investigation, and working with individual management staff.
By working directly with the parks, setting standards and legislation and growing capacity for Japanese supporters to support the end of these parks, we can collectively encourage a positive long term solution for the bears in these distressing parks.
Find out more how you can also support the work to end the suffering in Japan's Bear Parks.