Prospectus for the Establishment of the Japan Bear Network
Japan Bear Network
Representative (1st term), Toshiki Aoi
Conditions for Brown Bears and Black Bears in this country have been growing increasingly harsh in recent years. Development of forest regions has divided up and reduced the area for their habitat, and large-scale artificial forestation has been accompanied by a decline in quality, resulting in a progressive worsening of their living environment. At the same time, every year we see numerous cases of bears causing damage to the agriculture and forestry industry of local economies across the country; and in some cases, people have been injured. This has resulted in the adoption of extreme measures focused solely on extermination, and with this a rising danger of a decline in local populations due to hunting and extermination.
In an effort to address such problems, several groups and movements seeking to raise the level of discussion on how humans and bears can co-exist, and trying to put their ideas into practice, have emerged across the country. Examples of such groups are the “Brown Bear Club” in Hokkaido, the “Club to Protect the Forest Habitat of the Black Bear” and “Bear Discussion Group (formerly called the “Japan Black Bear Assembly”)” in the Tohoku region, the “Shinshu Black Bear Research Group” in the Chubu region, and the “East Chugoku Bear Assembly” and “Japan Black Bear Research Group” in the Kansai region. In addition, similar groups are starting to emerge in Shikoku and other regions. These groups are deeply rooted in their communities and are very active, sometimes engaging local governments in their activities. However, such groups and activities have until now been limited to specific regions, with no network or organization in place to allow for the exchange of information between groups or joint action. As a result, they have been inadequate for gaining an understanding of the overall bear distribution status, and for addressing nationwide problems such as the large-scale extermination of bears over a wide area.
This also represents a problem on the international level as well. For example, when Japan was asked for its position on the problem of the Asiatic Black Bear “bear gall bladder” trade or the issue of holding the East Asia Bear Conference in Japan, there was no body in place to give a proper statement. It is only through the volunteer activities of a small group of people that Japan has barely managed to fulfill its role in this area.
Thus, it has become clear that independent activity at the regional level is insufficient for dealing with the various nationwide problems we now face, and insufficient for dealing with problems on an international level. The question of whether or not some sort of national alliance of people involved in bears in Japan could be formed as a body for dealing with such problems happened to be raised at an international meat symposium held in Saitama Prefecture in November 1996; and as a result of discussions between people in the bear community in attendance at this symposium, the Japan Bear Network was formed.
This Network is an alliance and a liaison for fostering friendly communication among people involved in thinking about and taking action to promote the co-existence of bears and people in Japan. With this as its basic premise, the Network’s aim is to build a better relationship between bears and people, through activities such as the exchange of regional information about bears and particular problem areas, and?in regions where problems cannot be addressed by local groups alone?forming an alliance and making appeals to the public when necessary. It is also hoped that the Network will eventually be able to fulfill its role as a representative of Japan on international bear conservation issues.
This the basic philosophy upon which the Japan Bear Network was formed; but it should also be made clear that the activities of the Network are founded on the autonomy of each region, and that the Network shall pay the utmost respect to activities undertaken at the regional level. However, despite its status as a liaison network, it was determined that, in order to solidify its standing as a bona fide organization and build up a position in which proper appeals can be made to the public, a membership system would be the best approach for facilitating management and operation. For this reason, we have decided to start this Network as one based on an individual membership system. Moreover, in order to ensure smooth operation, it was decided that a simple set of statutes was required. These included the issuing of a newsletter to demonstrate membership, and the laying down of provisions for emergency motions and project research for the purpose of nationwide activities and public appeals when the need arises. In addition, the establishment of a web site for facilitating genial and open organizational functioning, and the use of a mailing list for promoting the free exchange of opinions among members, were also incorporated into the statutes. We hope that our members will take an active role in participating in the Network.