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All Life In a Viable Environment

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Anti Vivisection Action Network




From the "Zoo Check" series:

Safari park on the wane

15 October, 1999

Cages in zoos tend to be cramped. Safari parks however suggest space and are generally considered a good environment. Doubting that space is all there was to it, and prompted by reports that carcasses are fed to animals, ALIVE's Fusako Nogami visited Nasu safari park in Tochigi-ken and Tohoku safari park in Fukushima-ken at the beginning of March.

A medley of herbivores

In both parks deer, sheep and cows from every corner of the planet had been thrown in together. No information about species or origin was provided. Clearly there were too many animals in the enclosure: the grass had been nipped at the root, in fact no vegetation was to be seen.

Some animals were patently ill or injured, others lacked a leg or were impeded in other ways. This is of course not to argue that such animals should be removed from sight, but it was evident that no medical treatment was given. The danger of contagious diseases was also present.

Kiosks were selling animal feed with which visitors would entice the animals to approach their cars. "Feed the wild animals," ran the educationally dubious message.

Light haired animals

All the animals on display were of a whitish colour. The majority was kept in enclosures with neither trees or bushes which might have afforded shade or shelter. Had their hair possibly been bleached by UV rays and acid rain? Even the lion in its den was white.

According to zoo director Kumakubo's book "My life 300 years", on sale at the kiosks, he collects albinos. Whether lion, tiger, peacock or monkey, he gets it if it is white, and tries to make it breed. However, since albinos are rare, breeding them carries the risk of genetic degradation.

Kumakubo-san's business plan does not contain any educational or zoological aspects, it is simply to collect rare animals.

The problem of safety

Not to spend any money on the park seems to be part of the business plan. The fences are shoddily made from scrapwood, and it is easily imaginable that animals will escape during an emergency.

Last year's floods in Nasu for instance, left clear traces in the park, suggesting that large quantities of faeces might be washed into the river. On the other hand, a fire can also not be excluded.

Carcasses from diseased animals used as feed

Mr. Kumakubo is licensed by the prefecture to purchase dead animals from livestock breeders. He dissects the carcasses and feeds them to the carnivores in the park. Again, feeding meat considered unfit for human consumption to animals clearly carries the risk of disease.

"Safari" remains an unnatural concept

When we visited the safari park, the temperature was unusually low and snow was falling. In the sleet, two hippos were lying on their side in the mud. Their whole skin was covered with cracks. The lion likewise was getting wet.

The author Fujiwara Eiji, who in his book "The lion of the snow country" first criticised the state of Japanese zoos, quite rightly questions the wisdom of moving lions, which normally inhabit dry, hot savannahs, to an area embedded in snow clad mountains.

Neither Tohoku nor Nasu safari park are members of the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquaria, they are one man shows run by an eccentric 68 year old individual. The mere thought of what will happen to all the surplus animals when Kumakubo-san dies makes one shudder.

These safari parks seem to have been profitable for long years, and the visitors have made Kumakubo-san a rich man. So let's avoid these zoos and spend our next free day in a more enjoyable and educational place.