Director of Libearty Campaign.
World Society for the Protection of Animals.
The closest most Japanese people get to a real bear these days
is in captivity, in a "Bear Park". But the captive conditions
in these Bear Parks rarely provide the bears with any environmental
stimulation and often keep the animals in poor conditions.
In Japan's Bear Parks their world is one of concrete and iron bars.
Their diet is generally poor. Some bears are kept in solitary confinement
while most are crowded into sterile concrete pits. A steel climbing
frame cannot replace a tree and a small concrete pool is a poor
substitute for the flowing rivers in the wild. Cubs are taken from
their mothers at a few months of age, and may be dressed in human
clothes and made to perform circus-style tricks.
In this artificial environment, devoid of stimulation, the animals
are unable to express their natural behaviour. This causes a frustration
which can lead to the bears performing un-natural behaviours such
as stereotypic pacing and head weaving. The added stress of overcrowding
the bears into such a sterile environment frequently leads to aggressive
resulting in injuries, further stress and increased abnormal behaviour
Visitors to these Bear Parks learn nothing about the true nature
Bears are intelligent and powerful animals, and are not suited
to captivity. However, in cases where there is little option but
to keep them in captivity (where bears are already in some form
of captive condition and are unable to be released back to the wild),
they should be placed in enclosures which have a suitable habitat
to enable the animals to exhibit their natural behaviour. This will
also enable the visiting public to gain a positive educational experience
from observing the bears.
Over the past decade, the World Society for the Protection of Animals
(WSPA) has designed and funded the construction of bear "sanctuaries" in
several countries, to house bears which have been confiscated from
illegal trade or which have been rescued from poor captive conditions.
In these sanctuaries - up to 50 bears live in a natural forested
area of around 6 hectares, which is enclosed by high electric fences.
have earth, trees, water pools and dens. They are fed a good diet.
As a result, the animals show little aggression, and dig, swim,
climb trees and behave much like bears in the wild.
Visitors learn more about bears in these natural enclosures and
can leave with a new and real understanding about these magnificent
Japan's Bear Park industry is currently projecting a disgraceful
image of entertainment at the expense of animal welfare. Some of
the Bear Parks need to be closed down, others need to improve the
lives of their captive bears and still enthral tourists by creating
new forested Parks for bears