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Zoo Check comes to Japan

Small cages...... Animals under stress

Asahi Newspaper 31th July or 1th August 1996

A tiger or a bear which turns around the same place, or a elephant which keeps on wagging its nose -- If you see such animals in a zoo, they can be believed tobe under mental stress. In Europe, "Zoo Check Campaign" is successful, which is to investigate abnormal behavior of animals and accuse the responsible institution to make them improve unsuitable living environment for animals. Finally, a professional Zoo Checker visit Japan to examine the actual conditions here. The investigation has been made for a week until July 30. This project is implemented by the united efforts of Japanese and British citizens' groups. These groups plan to announce the investigation report officially and request the government and the zoos to improve the present conditions.

With the cooperation of Japan and UK citizens' groups,
10 zoos have been checked

"The enclosure for elephants is too small. The Mongoose is pacing up and down the cage, this is apparently abnormal behavior." Mr. John Gripper (66), a veterinarian from UK said at Ueno Zoo in Tokyo. He is one of 30 official zoo investigators who are authorized under the British law. He was taking pictures and taking detailed notes whether the space is wide enough, the floor is not concrete but covered with soil, or water is flowing.

He visits a total of 10 zoos from Kanto through Shikoku districts with a few Japanese volunteers without any appointments.

In the zoos in Kanto and Central(Chubu) districts, the party saw many animals showing strange behavior such as two Japanese black bears (driveling white-collar-bears) which keep shaking their heads in a small cage and monkeys which are tearing off their own fur.

Also in Tennohji Zoo in Osaka, a tiger and a polar bear walking up and down in their enclosures caught the party's eyes. Still the enclosure is equipped with a pond for bathing, and trees and grass are planted, and so "This is not so bad for the zoos in the middle of big city" commented Mr. Gripper. He questioned the staff earnestly about the breeding of scarce species and their way of dealing with too propagating animals.

After the investigation in Japan, Mr. Gripper said "Some zoos, even among public institutions, need improvement concerning their small spaces and too artificial environment for animals."

This project is realized by a citizen's group "ALIVE"(represented by Fusako Nogami, Tokyo) in cooperation with "Born Free Foundation" (established in 1984 in London) well known as a promoter of Zoo Check Campaign.

British zoos are authorized by self-governing bodies. Every 4 years, all the zoos in UK have to be visited and examined by official inspectors and if advice on environmental condition are given, the condition should be improved within 6 months. The authorization could be revoked if no improvement is confirmed.

"Born Free Foundation" has got professional inspectors to check more than a thousand zoos mostly in Europe and USA and they accuse all the institutions. They are going to make a report on this visit in which each zoo's name is shown, and in September the leading members will visit Japan to present some definite plan for improvement to the government and the institutions.

"ALIVE" made a leaflet on Zoo Check and plans a study meeting for common people. The director, Ms. Nogami said "In Japan, rather many animals are suffering from poor living environment of zoos or any other amusement parks. We don't have any rules and regulations of animal keeping environment, either. We would like a lot of people to know the actual conditions."

On the other hand, the former director of Ueno Zoo, Asabu University Professor, Mitsuko Masui commented, "I have known Zoo Check Campaign since a certain time in 80s and have supposed that it will come to Japan sooner or later. Some people criticize the campaign as overprotection of animals, but Japanese zoos are not perfect. For example, the movement of arranging the environmental condition for animals according to their ecology