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The role of non-governmental organisations and research organisations

There are a number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), research organisations, and wildlife management organisations which have a strong focus on the management and conservation of bears. Few NGOs deal exclusively with the issue of bear conservation—most having a broader focus on wildlife or nature conservation generally (and are often international, rather than domestic in focus).

For example, the NGOs ALIVE (Chikyū Seibutsu Kyōkai ), and The Nature

Conservation Society of Japan (Nihon Shizen Hogo Kyōkai ) are two

organisations which have lobbied for revisions to legislation and more central government involvement and support for regional bear management efforts. The Japan Wildlife Conservation

Society (Yasei Seibutsu Honzenron Kenkyūkai ) and TRAFFIC East Asia–

Japan have also focused on the bear issue from time to time. However, this is only one of many issues with which these organisations deal, and their lobbying power and influence upon public opinion is negligible.

One of the few organisations which deal exclusively with bear conservation is the Japan Bear and

Forest Association (Nihon Kuma Mori Kyōkai ), which is based in Hyōgo Prefecture in

central Honshū. This is a volunteer-based organisation the activities of which include environmental Figure 15: Hunters by age group

education in schools and initiatives to replant areas with mixed broadleaf trees. It was widely criticised in 2004 for its initiation of a project whereby it encouraged schools, businesses and individuals nationwide to collect acorns from their local parks, and send them to the association which then deposited the acorns in large mounds in the forest for ‘hungry bears to eat’. Criticism came predominantly from wildlife researchers and other NGOs who felt that the initiative was both naïve and potentially detrimental in its impacts, including the potential for bears to become conditioned to human food sources, and the risk that non-indigenous or non-local species of trees would become dispersed through natural forest.54 To many ‘serious bear researchers’, this organisation is seen as well-meaning but ill-informed.

An NGO which is held in higher regard by the bear research community is Picchio, based in Karuizawa, a resort town in a mountainous region of Nagano Prefecture. This organisation has been pioneering in its use of non-lethal methods for dealing with, and preventing bear conflict, including the use of Karelian bear dogs, specially trained dogs used to repel bears from human occupied areas. They are also active in educative initiatives. However, like many Japanese NGOs, their activities are limited to the geographical area in which they are based.

An organisation which has had a broader geographical impact on bear management nationally is the Institute for Asiatic Black Bear Research and Preservation (Nihon Tsukinowaguma Kenkyūjo

). While grandly named an ‘institute’, this organisation in fact comprises one individual, who has extensively researched and written about bear ecology and the prevention of human-bear conflict. Over many years he has provided advice and guidance to prefectural and municipal governments, especially in the Western Honshū region.

While a private company, rather than an NGO, the Tokyo-based Wildlife Management Office Yasei

Dōbutsu Hogo Kanri Jimusho , is pivotal to many government-based bear

(and other wildlife) management initiatives, both central and regional. Additionally, Mr Hazumi, the founder of the company, is regularly asked to sit on Diet Environment Committee sessions to consider revisions to legislation and provide his input on government-led initiatives. The organisation’s activities are mainly research oriented, its clients generally being central or prefectural governments which require surveys or data-analysis of wildlife populations and distribution, or other aspects of ecology such as reproduction or diet. The organisation also provides guidance and support for wildlife damage prevention trials and designs and prepares materials for awareness campaigns.

The Japan Bear Network is an umbrella group of researchers, scholars, NGO members or members of the public who are interested in bear research, conservation and management. It organises research

forums, workshops and symposiums, including the International Bear Association Conference held in Karuizawa in October 2006. It is primarily a network for information-sharing, and has little involvement in ‘on the ground’ initiatives.

In addition to those mentioned here, there are numerous other local groups which have as their goal ‘coexistence with bears’, but generally these organisations have little impact outside their localised area of activity.

Few universities have a wildlife management programme, though some offer subjects in the area as a part of veterinary science. Students wishing to study wildlife management will generally find that veterinary science is their only option. Even for students who manage to complete a course in wildlife management, options for employment are extremely limited. Nevertheless, many universities have very active student-driven ‘research groups’ focusing on bear research and conservation, and a number of university lecturers are actively involved in the area as a personal interest (often via the Japan Bear Network, outlined above).

6.5 Summary and conclusions

It is continued habitat degradation and destruction, rather than hunting, that poses the greatest threat to endangered species in Japan today. However, none of the key laws surveyed provides sufficient protection to halt the continued decline of many endangered species, including bears. From a practical standpoint, the law which relates most directly to wildlife protection and management is the Wildlife Protection and Hunting Law, one of the stated purposes of which is to protect, and indeed increase, populations of birds and mammals. However, this law’s emphasis is on the control of hunting—very little provision is made for the protection of habitat. As noted, though a species such as the bear may be protected under this law (though not necessarily in practice) from illegal hunting, no provision is made to protect its habitat.

The Natural Parks Law was designed primarily to facilitate the establishment of natural parks for the development of tourism and to bolster regional economies, rather than as a means to manage and protect wildlife and wilderness areas. In reality, this means that where the two key purposes of natural parks—utilisation and conservation—compete, it is usually utilisation which is prioritised. The current law does not provide a high level of protection against environmentally destructive activities such as forestry, infrastructural development and mining, within, or immediately adjacent to, parks, and this situation is unlikely to change significantly in the short or medium term, given the system of jurisdiction and ownership for natural parks.

As a tool for the conservation of endangered species, the Law for the Conservation of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora has been extremely limited in its effectiveness. This is due to the small number of habitats it has actually protected (eight so far), none of which were habitats for birds, mammals or creatures with larger ranges. The law brings no additional protection for the bear, which is not considered as endangered under Japanese legislation.

A key problem highlighted in the foregoing discussion is the fissure between legislation and wildlife management in practice. In recent years, the government has transferred much of the responsibility for wildlife management (other than that of the most endangered species) to prefectural governments, which are generally ill-equipped for this function. Bears, having large ranges, require a regional, rather than a local approach to their management. Furthermore, bear monitoring, pestilence prevention measures, the policing of hunting activities, and public education initiatives all require substantial resources, both in terms of funds and personnel, which are completely inadequate at a prefectural level. Hunters, a group of people who volunteer their services for the wildlife management operation, are dwindling in numbers, and Japan may soon be faced with a serious shortage of people willing and able to fulfil this function.


For example, Yoshida, 2006; Hazumi, 2006. 2

One organisation has been established specifically to lobby for this purpose: ‘The network to establish an effective wildlife protection law’ (Yasei seibutsu hogohō seitei o mezasu zenkoku nettowaaku

). 3

Hatakeyama, 2005: 54. Similarly, the Japanese word for ecosystem (seitaikei ) was first used in domestic legislation in 1992, when the Law for the Conservation of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora was enacted. 4

Ministry of the Environment, n.d. 5 Hatakeyama, 2005: 253. 6 Hatakeyama, 2005: 263–4. 7 Hatakeyama, 2005: 249. 8 Hatakeyama, 2005: 249–50. 9 Ishikawa, 2001, 194; Hatakeyama, 2004: 250. 10

In Japanese, the term kaihatsu (‘opening up’, or ‘development’ is used). 11

McCormack, 1996: 88. 12

Hatakeyama, 2005: 251. 13

Japan Statistics Bureau, 2006: 74, 19. 14

Article 1, National Parks Law. 15

Hatakeyama, 2005: 205. 16

Sutherland & Britton, 1980, 6; Hatakeyama, 2005, 207–8. 17 Hatakeyama, 2005: 209. 18 Stewart-Smith, 1987: 68–9. 19 Hatakeyama, 2005: 8. 20

Natural Parks Law, Article 3, clause 2. 21


Though same in name, the ‘special protection zones’ designated under the Natural Parks Law are distinct from those which can be designated under the Wildlife Protection and Hunting Law, the main difference being that the ‘special protection zones’ designated under the former law are within the boundaries of national, quasi-national, or prefectural parks, while the latter are designated within nationally or prefecturally designated wildlife protection zones. 23 Hatakeyama, 2005: 217. 24 Ishikawa, 2001: 199–200, 203. 25

Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 2002: 58. 26

Hatakeyama, 2005: 270 27

Nowell & Jackson, 1996: 89. 28

Nogami (for ALIVE (All Life in a Viable Environment)), 2003. 29

e.g. Yoshida Masahito , email to author, August 27, 2004; Domoto, 1997. 30

Ministry of the Environment, 2003: 31. 31

Hazumi T., personal communication, June 3, 2005 (Kawasaki). 32

Hatakeyama, 2005: 261. 33

Hatakeyama, 2005: 261. 34

Hazumi T., personal communication, June 3, 2005 (Kawasaki). 35

A green corridor is defined as ‘strips of semi-natural habitat connecting wildlife sanctuaries, along which plants and particularly animals can disperse’ (Stewart & Hutchings, 1996: 123).


This situation may change in the near future, with the introduction of a new administrative system which would see the merging of the current prefectures into several regional ‘states’, a system referred to as dōshūsei in Japanese. For example, under this new system, the six Tōhoku prefectures and Niigata prefecture would merge to form one new state. The new system has the potential to facilitate the establishment of a more regionally integrated system for wildlife management, crucial for larger species such as the bear which have more extensive ranges. 37

Asahi Shinbun, November 7, 2006. 38

ALIVE, 2004. 39

Ishikawa, 2001: 199–200. 40

Environment Agency, 1994a. 41 Kuroiwa, 2002. 42 Yoshida, 2006; Hazumi, 2006. 43 Hazumi, 2006. 44 Yoshida, 2006. 45 Hazumi, 2006. 46 Hazumi, 2006. 47

Asahi Shinbun, October 31, 2006. 48

Mainichi Shinbun, November 22, 2006. 49

Miura Shingo , email to Japanese Bear Network, November 18, 2006. 50

Miura, email to Japanese Bear Network, November 18, 2006; Fujimura Masaki , email to Japanese Bear Network, November 21, 2006.


Nature Conservation Society of Japan (NACSJ), 1999.

1999; Hazumi, T., personal communication, June 3, 2005 (Kawasaki). 52

Ministry of Environment, 2001. 53

Hazumi, 2006. 54

Chapter Seven: The bear—public discourse and perceptions

7.1 Introduction

Through an examination of recent literature, media coverage, personal communications and observations, this chapter will explore the various aspects of the public awareness, perception and discourse of the ‘bear problem’. Through this examination, it will be determined whether there are social or geographical patterns evident in the public perceptions of bears. The discourse will also be analysed for its symbolic dimensions.