Registered Charity in England & Wales No.1165941

Visiting Japan to extend animal welfare programmes


Visiting Japan to extend animal welfare programmes

The Wild Welfare team has been in Japan, extending animal welfare programmes throughout the country.

Visiting a bear park, re-visiting a zoo, and talking to our colleagues at the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA), it was a jam-packed trip. Some of the highlights include:

Bear park improvements

This trip saw us re-visit a bear park we have been working with for three years. Bear parks in Japan began as centres to care for orphaned (as a result of hunting and habitat loss) bear cubs. The centres became popular visitor attractions and today Japan has around eight parks, housing hundreds of bears. Unfortunately, antiquated infrastructure results in overcrowded and sub-optimal conditions for the bears.

During this recent visit we heard about developments the park has made to manage their bears to a higher standard, as well as the educational messages on animal welfare they are developing for visitors.

Georgina Groves, Wild Welfare’s director, said: “This meeting was an opportunity to continue discussing how our charity can help support some of the positive changes the veterinary and animal-keeping teams are making for their bears.

“There is a huge amount of work to be done to see all the bears in all of Japan’s parks living enriched lives, but we’re committed to getting there.”

Zoo improvements

We also took the opportunity to return to a zoo we have been providing advice to since 2018. Zoo staff showed us some of the changes they have been making for their elephant and we made further suggestions for indoor and outdoor enclosure modifications. The changes included the introduction of a large sandpit, which the elephant has been using daily – throwing sand over herself, rolling around and mixing it with her water to make mud baths!

We must stress we do not endorse facilities holding solitary elephants, but while discussions are ongoing about the future of elephants being held on their own in Japan, our focus is to ensure they have the best quality of life possible.

Walking around the rest of the zoo, we gave multiple recommendations for changes that could be made for their animals. The zoo staff are extremely engaged with learning about animal welfare, how they can make changes in the care they provide and the public education on offer so we look forward to continuing our work with them to support these ambitions.

Zoo association training

We are very pleased to say that our ongoing work with JAZA continues. This visit was an opportunity for us to plan further animal welfare training, scheduling a two-day workshop for later this year, where for the third year running, we will train JAZA members, building on their interest to apply best practice standards within their facilities.

Overall this latest Japan visit was a great chance for Wild Welfare to develop many of its countrywide projects, which include helping zoos improve their welfare standards and working for better national legislation to protect captive wild animals, to working with some of the country’s bear parks and pushing for better conditions for captive bears.

The last time our team were in Japan, they had the massive task of moving the brown bears from a small museum in the country’s north and journeying with them back to the UK, where they are now thriving in Yorkshire Wildlife Park.

Georgina Groves, added: “Our work in Japan continues to grow and each new discussion we have and each new partnership we develop opens up the opportunity to improve more animals’ lives.”

A big thank you to our Japanese consultants, who joined us on many of our project visits and helped with essential translation.


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 © Wild Welfare: One of the bears rehomed to Yorkshire Wildlife Park, before its move from Japan