Entrance to Asahiyama Zoo (used with permission; this image is © Viki Pandit and must not to be used without the owner’s permission)

Facility

Location: Asahiyama Zoo, Hokkaidō, Japan

Address: Kuranuma Higashiasahikawacho, Asahikawa, Hokkaido 078-8205, Japan

Telephone: +81 166 36 1104

Email: No contact form or email details found.

Website: https://www.city.asahikawa.hokkaido.jp/asahiyamazoo/

Exhibit: Polar bears are exhibited in the “Polar Bear House”

Bears

Satsuki (female).  Born 14 November 1991 in Cleveland Zoo, Ohio.  Arrived at Asahiyama 9 February 2010.

Lulu (female).  Born 20 November 1994 in Beppu Zoo, Hokkaidō, Japan.  Arrived at Asahiyama 19 October 2004.

Pirika (female).   Born 15 December 2005 in  Sapporo Marayama Zoo, Hokkaidō, Japan.  Arrived at Asahiyama 2 March 2011.

Ivan (male).  Born 8 December 2000 in Perm Zoo, Russia.  Transferred to Asahiyama 30 March 2002.

Details

The Polar Bear House opened in September 2002.  Conditions in this facility do not seem to have changed since a very negative report was published in 2007 by the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRE).  Accordingly we summarise the report below.

Date of visit: 5 July 2006

ACRE reported that there were two polar bear enclosures at the zoo and neither reached the minimum requirements of the Manitoba Regulations for environment or for basic husbandry.

At the time of the inspection visit the zoo had three polar bears; there are now (June 2019) four.  Two of the present bears, Ivan and Lulu, were at the zoo when inspected in 2006.

Enclosure 1 is about 180 square metres (1,940 square feet), open-air, rectangular and of a semi-pit style with a swimming pool of around 54 square metres (580 square feet) and two to three metres (six to ten feet) deep.  There is a high wall at the back and on one side with visitor viewing from above and through windows on the remaining two sides.  The bears can only see out through the visitor viewing windows overlooking the pool area of the enclosure.  A waterfall flows constantly into the pool.

Enclosure 2, approximately 127 square metres (1,370 square feet)  is of an open-air semicircular island style design.  A deep water moat divides the enclosure from the visitors who have access right around on a level with the bear(s).  Bears can only see out of the enclosure onto the visitor viewing area.  There is a small, shallow pool of around 9 square metres (97 square feet).

In 2006 noise levels were reported as high with visitors able to get very close to the bears.  Nothing seems to have changed in this regard.  The waterfall in enclosure 1 also generated constant noise. 

Both enclosures have concrete flooring throughout with no soft substrates.  No shelter from rain or shade from the sun is provided in either enclosure. 

Recent photographs and videos indicate that the bears are given plastic items to play with (see one of the videos below).  There are no private areas available to allow the bears to escape from public viewing and no access to off-exhibit areas.  Three perspex domes set into the floor allow visitors to put their heads up and view the enclosures from below.  This allows for continual human intrusion into the bears area.

Stereotypical behaviour by the bears was observed and recent videos (for example, see below) show that this is still occurring.  Ivan had bald patches on his head and shoulders and weight problems were reported.  Recent videos (2017 to 2019) suggest that several of the bears may be overweight.

Source: ACRE Japan Polar Bear Report (download here from our server) and additional research by Bear Conservation.

Concerns

  1. Use of for breeding purposes
  2. Very poor facilities which are far too small with no shelter or off-exhibit areas access or soft substrates for digging.
  3. Total area available falls far short of the Manitoba Standard.  Bear Conservation recommends a minimum of 8,000 square metres (2 acres) per animal.
  4. Very little enrichment provided
  5. Unsuitable climatic conditions in summer
  6. No apparent source of of drinking water other than pool water.
  7. Pronounced stereotypical behaviour and poor condition of bears.

We do not at present have reliable information on the feeding, exercise and medical and enrichment regimes Adventure World.

More Information

“Asahiyama’s natural touch” is an article published in the Japan Times in 2010 which takes an alternative perspective on Asahiyama Zoo and starts with some paragraphs on the polar bears in general and Ivan in particular (opens in new window).

The two short videos (from 2018 / 2019) below give some idea of the conditions in which the bears are kept and also portray clear signs of stereotypical behaviour.

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