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Cougar in northeast Japan zoo feasts on wild boar carcass in educational move

A cougar is seen eating the corpse of a wild boar in Morioka Zoological Park in the northeastern Japan city of Morioka, Iwate Prefecture on June 28, 2020. (Mainichi/Ikuko Ando)

MORIOKA -- A zoo in this northeastern Japan city fed a young cougar a wild boar carcass on June 28 as part of an educational event held after the boars were exterminated to avoid damage to agricultural crops.

The event aimed to raise awareness among visitors about issues related to vermin and their usage after extermination by showing the audience the cougar eating in a near-natural manner.

Morioka Zoological Park in Iwate Prefecture hosted the event with "Wild meat Zoo," an organization that is involved in research on vermin issues. According to a tally by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, agricultural damage caused by wild deer and boar in fiscal 2018 totaled 10.1 billion yen nationwide, roughly $94.23 million. In that time period, the cost of damage reached 200 million yen, or roughly $1.87 million, just within Iwate Prefecture.

Around 1.16 million wild animals were exterminated across Japan in fiscal 2018, according to the Environment Ministry. However, the Japan Gibier Promotion Association says only 10% of these corpses were used as feeding material, with the rest being disposed of.

As zoos usually provide animals with chunks of meat whose fur and skin are already peeled off to make them easier to eat, animals kept there are less stimulated and require shorter meal times compared to feeding in the wild. By having the cougar spend an extended period of time consuming a boar, which was presented in a state similar to as it would appear in the wild, change is brought to the monotonous routine of eating at the zoo, apparently leading to an improvement in the carnivorous animal's quality of life.

On June 28, a 1-year-old male cougar named "Tough" at Morioka Zoological Park was given sterilized meat from a wild boar captured and exterminated in Fukuoka Prefecture in southwestern Japan. Although Tough was initially on his guard and showed gestures like clawing at the meat, he was seen peeling off the skin on his own, and eating the meat and bones after a few minutes.

A 60-year-old female company employee who visited the zoo from the central Japan city of Kofu commented, "I could sense the instincts of the wild kick in as he was eating."

Zookeeper Kazuyuki Ban commented, "I would like for visitors to learn details about feeding and life at the zoo, and use that to also think about vermin issues and the use of exterminated animals that are relevant to our daily lives." The zoo is considering holding these carcass feeding sessions regularly if wild boar meat can be consistently secured.

(Japanese original by Ikuko Ando, Morioka Bureau)

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