Wildlife management in practice—the fissure between legislation and reality

In document The bear as barometer: the Japanese response to human bear conflict (Page 92-97)

fundamental is the gap between the legislation and what occurs in practice. For example, as stated above, the Law for the Protection of Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna designates species which are endangered, and sets out measures for their protection. But, as was seen, only a small handful of the species designated as endangered under the law actually have any legal protection for their habitats. Many more species are not designated as endangered under the law, though wildlife conservationists argue that they should be.

The Wildlife Hunting and Protection Law sets out what forms of hunting and what types of traps are legal, and prohibits the use of other hunting methods and traps. However, central government does not provide the resources for prefectural or municipal governments to carry out patrolling and monitoring activities to ensure the law is abided by. Effectively, therefore, a person can flout the law (by using illegal traps, hunting outside the hunting season, hunting non-game species and so on) with little fear of prosecution.

Furthermore, as was discussed above, the Ministry of the Environment has delegated the responsibility for management of wildlife to prefectural governments, but prefectures only have jurisdiction to manage populations within their prefectural borders. This is clearly problematic because wildlife is oblivious to administrative boundaries, and the range of a larger species such as the bear may extend over two or more prefectures. While one prefecture may be proactive in its management of a species, its efforts may be compromised by a neighbouring prefecture which has no management strategy or has a different management approach. Crucial aspects of habitat protection such as green corridors35 are limited in their effectiveness without inter-prefectural cooperation.36

The effect of this localised approach to wildlife management is that a species may be recognised as endangered, but little is actually done to prevent its further decline. A clear example of the unwillingness and ineptitude demonstrated by central government in providing any leadership in the management of bears came in 2006. In this year, described by many as a crisis in bear management and conservation owing to the unprecedented level of bear cullings and human-bear conflict, the Ministry of the Environment did nothing more that publish an impressively entitled ‘Emergency Response Manual’ on its website ‘to inform both the public and municipalities of measures to prevent bear pestilence and incidents’.37 In reality, this was simply a collection of web-pages containing information already readily available on many prefectural websites. This lack of central government involvement and leadership in the conservation and management of bears is a source of criticism from wildlife conservation organisations within Japan. For example, in October 2004, ALIVE (All Life In a

Viable Environment; in Japanese, Chikyū Seibutsu Kyōkai ), an NGO concerned with

wildlife conservation, petitioned the Ministry of the Environment to adopt a national approach to the conservation and management of bears, including the establishment of a ‘national conservation and management plan’, in place of its current approach of delegating this responsibility to the prefectural governments.38

The management of natural parks also reflects the fissure between provisions of the legislation and the constraints of reality. In Japan, only a small number of park staff are employed to manage the nation’s natural parks. This situation has been further exacerbated by recent restructuring of the

Ministry of the Environment: previously, management staff were primarily assigned to administrative duties such as processing permits, but following restructuring in 1999, staff are now responsible for protection and breeding programmes for designated species and the management of wildlife protection areas in accordance with the Law for the Conservation of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (1992). However, in reality, staff generally do not have time for wildlife management tasks such as environmental surveys, monitoring activities or conservation education, and volunteers need to be relied on for these tasks.39 These problems are exemplified by the Shirakami conservation area (located in Akita and Aomori Prefectures), which encompasses the largest virgin beech forest in Japan and has been designated a world heritage site by UNESCO on account of its unique flora and fauna.40 Owing to lack of adequate monitoring, problems have arisen with visitors leaving garbage in the forest, lighting fires, and entering specially protected areas where entry is prohibited.41 The inability to monitor park use at this fundamental level must necessarily have an impact on the effectiveness of parks as nature preservation areas.

The gap between legislation and reality is further reflected in the specific wildlife management planning system. When the law was first introduced, prefectural governments were in some cases provided with considerable outside expertise and input (both from the Ministry of the Environment and other organisations) to assist with the management plan formulation process, and as a result, many prefectures produced wildlife management plans. However, when faced with the implementation of the plans, prefectural governments found that they were provided with no further outside expertise or assistance, and they had neither the budget nor the staff with specialist expertise to facilitate the implementation process.42 For example, fundamental to implementing a plan is ascertaining the population of a particular species in one’s jurisdiction. This involves making an informed estimate based on sampling and any other available data, a process requiring a sizeable team of staff with scientific and practical expertise, equipped with the required technology, equipment and facilities. However, many prefectures do not have the resources to complete even this process, which is vital for obtaining a baseline for subsequent monitoring and management. Furthermore, the successful implementation of a plan involves population monitoring, necessary to ascertain the effectiveness of measures in reaching the prescribed targets. So dire is this lack of resourcing for these fundamental wildlife management tasks, one expert has suggested that rather than attempt to make population estimates, prefectural governments should instead focus what meagre budget and resources they have on pestilence prevention measures alone.43 Given these circumstances, the planning system is falling well short of its legislative goals.

The lack of financial resources is clearly a major problem preventing prefectural governments from effectively carrying out wildlife management in their jurisdiction, but even this is outweighed in magnitude by the lack of specialist personnel available to carry out wildlife management functions.

According to a survey of prefectural governments, this was the key problem highlighted in respect of their wildlife management responsibilities.44 Few wildlife specialists (individuals qualified or trained in wildlife biology, wildlife management or related fields) are employed by prefectural or municipal government offices dealing with wildlife issues. Staff who deal with wildlife management are by and large untrained in the field, and are, like other government employees, rotated to other roles within a few years. This is not conducive to the wildlife management function, which requires long-term research, planning and focus, and the input of specialists. As a result, valuable experience tends to be lost and there is a lack of continuity in management and planning. In addition, officials entrusted with wildlife management tasks tend to lack authority and are therefore limited in what they can achieve, especially if it is beyond the framework of existing policy and practice. This situation has been exacerbated by the economic recession of the 1990s and the trend towards the ‘downsizing’ and ‘rationalising’ of administrative bodies in an effort to cut costs.

Wildlife experts express some frustration that central government seems reluctant to divert even a fraction of the immense amounts of money spent on public works annually to wildlife management, and in particular for the training and deployment of adequate staffing. For example, in his submission to the Diet Committee on the Environment in 2006, Hazumi stated:

We only ask that a little of the budget that was in the past allocated to public works, such as roads and dams, may be diverted to this [wildlife management] field. Habitat and wildlife management are in fact ‘public works’ or what can be called ‘fundamental social

maintenance’. We have to build the kind of society which recognises this and invests in this area.45

Hazumi also calls on the government to create a specialist wildlife position in the public service. He observes that there are many young people at tertiary institutions studying wildlife biology or related fields, and wishing to work in the areas of nature and wildlife conservation, but as long as there are no positions in these fields, these students move on to other areas. He suggests that by creating these positions in the public service, young people attracted to these roles will act as conduits for the valuable local knowledge and know-how relating to wildlife which exists among farmers, foresters and hunters, particularly in upland areas where people have traditionally lived in close proximity to wildlife (for further discussion of this aspect, see Chapter Eight).46

Currently, due to both the lack of resources and skilled staff, and the lack of understanding for alternative strategies among the affected public, the primary strategy for dealing with bear pestilence is culling, which is, as noted, a cause of concern to wildlife experts. Despite these constraints, some prefectures are becoming more proactive in using aversive conditioning techniques, rather than simply culling bears. For example, in 2006, Nagano Prefecture, one of the most proactive prefectures in this respect, re-released 109 bears after using aversive conditioning.47 However, prefectural

officials report strong resistance to bear relocation among the public, who express concern about the bear returning, or, as in the case of residents in Yamanashi Prefecture, a concern that ‘angered bears will return to exact revenge’ on them.48 Again, the resistance among the public can to a large extent be seen as a product of the inability of prefectural governments to provide education and awareness programmes for the public. As a consequence of these difficulties, in 2006, the number of bears culled nationally peaked at unprecedented levels, and bear management reached a crisis point. Wildlife researchers and experts across Japan began to seriously question the future status of the bear if the current approach to its management continues.

It appears that the use of bear traps is a major factor in this high culling rate. Bear traps yield a high rate of capture, and they are simple to make and install. For this reason, many municipal governments have a number of traps which are set after a bear, bear scat or other signs of presence are observed. Miura (2006) notes that in some municipalities, traps are set permanently for an entire year, irrespective to whether there are complaints of bear pestilence. In this way, the use of traps is a highly reactive response to the presence of bears, whether or not damage has been verified. Furthermore, this method of control-killing is entirely ‘blind’—there is no process to verify whether or not the bear trapped, and subsequently culled, is the individual causing damage.49 Wildlife researchers make several recommendations: that the number of bear traps in each municipality should first be audited, then registered and administered by the municipal government (rather than by hunting organisations or individuals); that there be a time-limit placed on how long traps can be set for; and that stricter standards be set by central government (the Wildlife Division of the Ministry of Environment) regulating the use of bear traps. 50

Inadequately staffed, prefectural and municipal governments rely on volunteers, non-governmental organisations and private organisations to fulfil fundamental wildlife management functions. These functions include trapping and culling (hunters’ associations); data-collection and research such as tracking and population studies (NGOs and research bodies such as universities); and public awareness and educational programmes (NGOs, zoos, etc).51 Volunteers and organisations are not normally remunerated for the tasks they fulfil. For instance, even hunters, who are integral to the wildlife management function, are provided only a small sum as remuneration for call-outs to find, trap or cull bears. Remuneration is insufficient to cover lost income, transport and other related costs.

Hunters are especially pivotal to the wildlife management operations of municipal governments: not only do they perform essential tasks, but they are also a source of valuable knowledge and information regarding wildlife ecology, behaviour and habitat. However, even this pool of expertise is declining rapidly. Since peaking in the 1970s at 500,000, the number of licensed hunters had fallen to just over 200,000 in 2000 (see Figure 15).52 In addition, the overwhelming majority of hunters (about

90 per cent) are aged forty years or above, and very few people of younger age groups are taking up hunting. One wildlife management expert predicts that in ten years there will be very few hunters for municipal governments to call on to deal with problematic animals, and suggests that central government should act immediately to avoid a crisis in a decade’s time.53

In document The bear as barometer: the Japanese response to human bear conflict (Page 92-97)