We had a fantastic day working with this team at Noboribetsu bear park! At the invitation of Dr. Matsumoto from the park, we spent the day observing current management practices and identifying opportunities to introduce appropriate enrichment and effective practices that help improve the daily lives of the 70 bears held at the park. Japanese bear parks have had a poor reputation in the past for their animal care, however Dr. Matsumoto and his team are extremely invested in improving the welfare for the bears they look after.
Currently hindered by old infrastructural design, the park is limited in what it can do in regards to enrichment within its outdoor, public enclosures, however they have easier access to the indoor enclosures, and it is there that we focused on when and how we could provide species appropriate enrichment which is safe to apply.
(Photo: jam and fish treats for the bears)
The small team of staff enthusiastically took part in classroom and practical based activities during the day, and Dr Matsumoto was impressed that even staff who had a day off, came to the park to attend! One of the main issues addressed is the over-crowding, caused by continued breeding of the bears. Young animals are attractive for any facility and Noboribetsu is no different, with visitors eager to see young cubs up close. However there is limited space and this continued breeding results in the facility having far too many bears than it can cope with in regards to daily and medical care. We talked through options for reducing the bear numbers and how the park can improve in the interim period.
While the park is on the start of its journey to improve, recognition must go to the team for their commitment and enthusiasm and especially Dr. Matsumoto for recognising the importance of animal care and welfare. We offer our thanks for the invitation to work with the park and look forward to a continued partnership.
(Photo: the team at Noboribetsu Bear Park, Japan)