Could you imagine having spent your life trapped in a cage no bigger than yourself? Never getting to feel grass beneath your feet or feel the freshness of water on your skin. Never experiencing kindness or care. Well for Kai and his fellow Ussuri brown bears, that was their lives for 17 years.
When Kai was only a cub, he was snatched from his mother and thrown into a 6-foot by 9-foot cage. He spent 17 years of his life only knowing that cage.
Kai was one of four ‘living exhibits’ in the Ainu Culture Museum on Hokkaido, a Japanese island. He lived in a separate cage alongside 27-year-old female, Hanako, male Amu, and Kai’s brother Riku.
Years ago, the bear cubs would be sacrificed. However, now that the practice has ended they are simply locked up. The brown bears are so rare that there are only 10,000 left in Japan.
The four bears would pace their cages, driven mad by boredom. Thankfully, some Western tourists witnessed their horrific living conditions and alerted the UK charity, Wild Welfare.
When nowhere in Japan would take on Kai and his fellow inmates, the charity contacted Yorkshire Wildlife Park in England. The park has a great reputation for rehabilitating animals and said ‘yes’ immediately.
Kai and his fellow bears were flown 5,400 miles from Japan to the UK to their new home and new life. When they arrived at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park they had no idea just how wonderful a surprise they were in for.
Hanako and Amu are kept in special enclosed dens for the time being, with only their carers for contact. They need more time to recover from their journey after 27 years of never being able to take more than four steps. But brothers Kai and Riku were able to explore their new safe haven almost immediately.
The brothers now have four acres to roam around. They have climbing frames, a deep straw bed, a lake, and all the fruit and honey they could ever want.
The moment that Kai’s door is opened and he takes his first steps into freedom, it’s impossible to not tear up over the look on his face.
He is tentative at first and sniffs the grass. But as soon as he realizes he is free to wander, he bursts out of his cage for the last time. His eyes fill with wonder and excitement and he bounds like a cub out into the enclosure.
In next to no time, Kai is playing with his toys and rolling around in the lake. It’s safe to say that this has to be the best day of his life.
Watch the video below to see Kai and his fellow bear’s journey to freedom. We are delighted that these abused bears have finally found a safe home together.