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Escape of 'black bear' simulated in emergency drill at east Japan zoo

Vehicles drive a zoo employee dressed as a bear into a corner during the drill at the Hitachi City Kamine Zoo in Hitachi, Ibaraki Prefecture, on Feb. 15, 2023. (Mainichi/Takahiro Tauchi)=Click/tap photo for more images.

HITACHI, Ibaraki -- A worker dressed up in a bear costume for an emergency drill held at a zoo in this eastern Japan city on Feb. 15 to simulate the escape of an Asian black bear following a major earthquake.

    Some 40 personnel from organizations including the Hitachi City Kamine Zoo, Ibaraki Prefectural Police's Hitachi Police Station, Hitachi Fire Station and the city's pest damage prevention team took part in the drill and confirmed procedures for guiding evacuees and capturing the animal.

    The drill was conducted on the assumption that an earthquake registering a full 7 on the 7-point Japanese seismic intensity scale occurred, breaking a glass window in the display area and allowing a bear to escape from its enclosure. Participants drove a zoo employee dressed in a bear costume into a corner using nets and vehicles, and fired a tranquilizer gun. After confirming that the collapsed fake bear did not move, they returned it to its enclosure.

    The 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake registered an upper 6 on the seismic scale in Hitachi, but no animals apparently escaped from the zoo. Nobutaka Namae, the zoo's director, said, "The zoo conducts annual drills on its own, but it is significant that we were able to conduct this drill jointly with the police, fire station and other parties. Though any zoo has a risk (of beasts escaping), we would like to do our best to minimize the damage."

    (Japanese original by Takahiro Tauchi, Hitachi Local Bureau)

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