Bear Protection, Environmental Conservation and Nature Tours in Karuizawa
Black Bears occasionally come into town to eat leftovers from trash bins or to invade homes and gardens in search of food. Although the animals are shy and avoid people, startled bears can pose a threat to humans. For this reason, until today, bears which enter areas of human settlement, are shot, which minimizes the number of bears.
In 1998, a cooperation between a bear conservation organization and the city administration of Karuizawa was started to resolve the conflict between bears and the town population. The amount of natural food resources for bears in the forest was increased and at the same time the garbage bins used at the city were replaced by a closable type of bins that bears cannot open, reducing their incentive to come to town. Awareness-raising programs for the population and tourists were started, too.
Since the start of the program, bears living close to town have been tagged with radio collars to be able to track their movements. Should a bear approach town, the team members of the bear conservation organisation try to stop it from doing so with the help of Karelian Bear Dogs. Those are dogs that are highly skilled and specially trained to spot bears and to push them back into the forest. The dogs also protect the team members as they can recognize the presence of bears much earlier than humans.
Around 20 bears are currently tagged with battery-powered radio transmitters. One of the tasks of interns is to assist the professionals with replacing the radio transmitters, which needs to be done every 2-4 years. For this, bears are trapped in cages, stunned, and the radio collars are replaced. At the same time, veterinary medical examinations, such as checking for parasite infestation, are carried out on the anesthetized bears.
As one of only three organisations in the world, the Karuizawa project also breeds and trains Karelian Bear Dogs. The dogs are living together with their trainer in a fenced area in the forest which includes an underground earth shelter. You can support the trainer, play with the dogs and walk them in the forest.
Other tasks related to bear conservation include: freeing bears caught in traps of poachers and providing them with veterinary care, laboratory analyses of the bear's blood, hair, teeth and faeces, GPS data input of bear movements, and involvement in bear research (e.g. identification of location of winter dens, breeding history, relation between diets and home range size etc).
In addition to working with bears, other animal sightings in the forests around Karuizawa are regularly recorded. The organization has set up photo-traps in the woods, whose data must be evaluated. Currently, copper pheasants are being researched using GPS and radio telemetry. Invasive plant and animal species that can endanger the ecosystem need to be removed regularly. You will be invovled in all these activities.
Internships are possible from April to October. The duration of an internship/volunteer assignment in this project should usually exactly be 4 weeks. If your university has different requirements about the duration of your internship, longer durations are possible.
It is a requirement for this internship that you are enrolled in or have completed a related university course such as biology, ecology, zoology, or veterinary medicine, or that you have relevant and sufficient practical experience in environmental protection/animal conservation. In addition, physical fitness is expected, as it is necessary to walk longer distances through forest terrain. It should also be clear to you and you should not have any problems with the fact that there can be insects while doing your project activity and at your housing in the forest.
Accommodation is provided free of charge in the shared, self-catering dorm room. There is a kitchen for you to use. As an intern you are even allowed to use the onsen (hot spring) of a nearby luxury hotel free of charge, however only if you don't have any tattoos. You can find details in the slider "accommodation" below.
Location: Karuizawa, Japan
Availability: April to October
Minimum Duration: 4 weeks
Maximum Duration: typically 4 weeks, see text
Required Language Skills: English
Accommodation: Shared Accommodation in the forest
Supervision possible: Yes
Qualification supervisor: Biologists
Minimum qualification of intern: Student or graduate of related course
Further contribution to the project: No
Volunteering possible: Yes
Required qualification of interns: Student or graduate of related course
Further contribution to the project: No
It is expected:
Professional work, the "right" attitude
I. World Unite! Service Package
The World Unite! Service Package includes:
- Arrangement of your Placement
- Individual Consultation and Preparation prior to your arrival
- Access to the World Unite! Online Resource Centre which has Preparation Materials including Intercultural Preparation, compiled particularly for your destination (PDFs, Videos)
- Preparation Session via Skype, together with further participants
- (If required) arrangements of the Documents you need for your Visa Application, but not the official government fees for the visa (if they apply, see details above)
- Support with Residence Registration, Mobile phone contract, opening a bank account (if needed and possible, depending on visa category)
- Pick-up and Transfers on arrival from Haneda or Narita airport or next international airport
- Personal support staff in Tokyo (English and Japanese speaking) and at our international office
- Local orientation about life in Tokyo
- 24 Hours emergency support by local support team
- Issuance of Confirmations/Certificates for your university, scholarship, insurance, etc. and filling out/signing Internship Contracts for your university
- Costs for 10 seedlings of indigenous trees that we plant on the slopes of Kilimanjaro
The Rates do NOT include:
- Accommodation and Meals (please refer to the project description for details)
- Travel to/from Japan (you book it on your own; we can assist you)
- Official fees for Visa (see below)
- Insurance (Travel Health Insurance, Liability Insurance, Travel Cancellation insurance; you book it on your own, we can assist you)
- Personal Expenses
- Local Transport (Estimated amounts see below)
II. Accommodation Costs
Overview of other costs:
- Self-catering from around 200 EUR/USD per month (estimate)
- Small local expenses (Mobile phone contract, Local Transport): ca. 90-100 EUR/USD per Month (Estimate)
- Insurances around 30-50 EUR/USD per Month
How do I pay?
The accomodation consists of two separate residential buildings with shared dorm rooms with bunk beds, shared kitchens and shared sanitary installations, one for female program participants and one for male participants.
The house for female program participants is located next to the bear conservation organization's office in the Karuizawa forest. It is of middle standards. The picture gallery shows the house for female program participants.
The house for male participants is located about 15 minutes to walk from the bear conservation organization's office, deeper into the Karuizawa forest. It's of simpler standards than the house for female program participants.
Other Projects That Might Interest You:
Japanese Language lessons in Tokyo!
Travel Health Insurance
You can stay at our Sharehouse in Tokyo for 2-3 nights and travel to Karuizawa by train or bus during the weekend. We will give you some useful hints for the internship in Karuizawa on Thursday or Friday at our office in Tokyo.
You book the flight to Tokyo on your own. Please make sure that you arrive on a Thursday between 8am and 9pm. We will then pick you up from the airport and take you to sharehouse by public transport.