A wildlife conservation group has said that the tourists and photographers that visit the Shiretoko Peninsula of Hokkaido are getting too close to the brown bears. The area became a UNESCO Natural World Heritage site in 2005 and is a popular tourist spot for those who want to catch glimpses of the elusive species, usually seen fishing for salmon and trout at the Iwaobetsu River.
The Shiretoko Nature Foundation is a nonprofit that is highly involved in wildlife conservation in the area, which enjoys a large number of visitors, especially during public holidays. They launched a campaign to educate visitors about the proper behavior when visiting, to avoid accidents and incidents with the wild animals. They have been distributing flyers that instruct people to not enter the river bed and to be more careful when taking photographs, as the activity might “excite” the bears, leading to dangerous accidents. According to Yasushi Masuda, the secretary-general of the organization, it is for the tourists‘ own protection that they are doing this campaign.
They have observed that some tourists surround the bears when taking pictures, thinking they are harmless. But they warn them that once the bears start moving, they had better return to their vehicles. There was one incident where a tourist “lured” the bears by putting 15 pieces of salmon in the area, but this is strictly prohibited. They cited an incident at a US camping site where a bear-feeding show led to an accident where a person was fatally wounded. They advise that it is better to take photographs from a distance, just to be safe.
[ via Mainichi ]