Registered Charity in England & Wales No.1165941

Brown Bear Care And Welfare In Japan


Brown Bear Care And Welfare In Japan

Developing enrichment in NBP bear enclosure. Photo © NBP

Wild Welfare has been active in Japan for several years, making great progress with our partners. Collaboratively we are working towards improving animal welfare at a national level, as well as directing some of our focus towards individual facilities.

One of these facility-focused projects involves working with Noboribestu Bear Park (NBP) in Hokkaido, the northern Island of Japan. Dr Naoya Matsumoto has been instrumental in developing our relationship with NBP over the years and in 2018 helped with the rehoming of the Ainu brown bears from a museum in Japan to the UK’s Yorkshire Wildlife Park (YWP), with support from Yorkshire Wildlife Park Foundation (YWPF). This project helped build closer ties between the organisations and at the beginning of 2020 an MoU was signed to establish our second official Partner for Animals programme between NBP, YWPF and Wild Welfare.

During the first part of 2020 we were making great strides in developing a training programme where staff from NBP and YWP would participate in a joint workshop and discuss challenges and opportunities in improving animal welfare practices. Unfortunately, with the outbreak of COVID-19, these plans had to be put on hold. However, the partnership has continued despite these setbacks and the sharing of information between the partners has been maintained.

Voluntary blood draw training using positive reinforcement techniques (honey on a stick is a delicious treat for a bear!) Photo © NBP

Most recently Dr Naoya reached out for advice regarding two of the bears under his care. Because we have fostered a trusted and positive relationship, we could openly discuss veterinary and husbandry care for the bears between YWP staff and vets, Wild Welfare vet advisors and Dr Naoya and his team. The bears were experiencing seizures with no obvious cause and although we were unable to give a physical examination, Dr Naoya expertly provided details of the symptoms and current husbandry and diet/nutrition of the bears. The staff in NBP were able to train the bears so they could take a small amount of blood from them safely without the need to use anaesthetics. Training for conscious blood draws using positive reinforcement techniques means a stress-free procedure for the bears and upskilling of the staff involved. Blood draws allow the vets to analyse the blood for any chemical changes to what is considered normal levels of vitamin and minerals as well as looking for diseases. This information generated a discussion between the teams and advice was given with a potential diagnosis. The bears are now on a new diet with improved nutrition, their condition is improving and being monitored.

“It is heartening to see that even during these challenging times, everyone involved in the Partner for Animals programme continues to work towards improving the welfare of the animals in their care.

“When people put the care of the animals before any personal or professional difficulties it can only mean that animal welfare standards will continue to improve,” said Simon Marsh, Wild Welfare’s acting UK Director.

A bear at NBP undertaking a voluntary blood draw Photo © NBP

The Partner for Animals programme continues to drive the improvement of welfare standards, even during these difficult times, and is facilitating the positive changes needed in animal care. As soon as it is safe to travel and work with our partners, we look forward to being able to see the progress made, meet our colleagues in person again and see the animals whose care we are helping to improve.


Notes to Editors

For more information or interview requests please contact Wild Welfare on

Wild Welfare is a global organisation committed to improving animal welfare for captive wild animals. By uniting the world’s leading zoos, zoo associations and animal welfare organisations, we build trusting partnerships that help provide long-term solutions to critical wild animal welfare issues.

Our vision is to end the suffering of captive wild animals around the world and ensure full and sustainable protection is given to all animals in human care. Find out more at Registered charity in England (no.1165941).

Image © Adam Spencer – One of the rehomed Ainu brown bears enjoying their new YWP enclosure