After 17 years, this brown bear from Ussuri tested freedom for the first time

Kai's first glimpse of outdoor life: Kai cautiously inches to the open door of his cage, guarded by a guardian. The 17-year-old Ussuri brown bear has lived in a cage 6 feet by 9 feet since he was kidnapped as a cub

First, there is a long snout with two black nostrils as complete stops. The mouth is open, as if in shock. Eyes that could be made of glass in a huge and wide head below round cartoon ears. He waits. The metal shutter is raised. The eyes look, anxious. And then a huge leg, nails so long that they remind me of Freddy Krueger, takes a first step towards the grass.

Kai, a 17-year-old Ussuri brown bear who has lived in a 6-foot by 9-foot cage since he was abducted by his mother as a puppy, who was shot by hunters, places a leg on something that is not hard, cold concrete. Oh!

He huffs. He can not believe it's soft. He spies on a toy, donated by the local fire service, one of many made with old hoses.

Kai has never had a toy. He picks it up and, excited, takes it into his lair.

The guardians at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park near Doncaster do not want to cheer up, as that would be alarming. Instead, water seeps from the eyes while telephones are held high to record this transcendental moment.

Kai's first glimpse of outdoor life: Kai cautiously inches to the open door of his cage, guarded by a guardian. The 17-year-old Ussuri brown bear has lived in a cage 6 feet by 9 feet since he was kidnapped as a cub

Kai's first glimpse of outdoor life: Kai cautiously inches to the open door of his cage, guarded by a guardian. The 17-year-old Ussuri brown bear has lived in a cage 6 feet by 9 feet since he was kidnapped as a cub

A nervous look around: I'm not sure, but with one leg out, it seems as if it says: Where am I? He left his cage for the first time after being taken from Japan to Yorkshire Wildlife Park

A nervous look around: I'm not sure, but with one leg out, it seems as if it says: Where am I? He left his cage for the first time after being taken from Japan to Yorkshire Wildlife Park

A nervous look around: I'm not sure, but with one leg out, it seems as if it says: Where am I? He left his cage for the first time after being taken from Japan to Yorkshire Wildlife Park

Kai is one of four bears that existed as "living" exhibits at the Ainu Culture Museum in Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan. The puppies were sacrificed once, but when that practice ended they were simply locked up. These brown bears are rare: only about 10,000 remain in Japan.

18 months ago, Western tourists, surprised by the sterile conditions, drew the attention of Wild Welfare on the four bears, a charity of the United Kingdom that helps wild animals in captivity. The two brothers, Kai and Riku, ate, then vomited, since that gave them something to do; the four bears would walk, mad with boredom.

"The museum wanted the bears to come back," Georgina Groves of Wild Welfare tells me. "They did not have the facilities, and unfortunately, we could not find any place in Japan to take them."

He got in touch with the Yorkshire Wildlife Park (YWP), which has an incredible reputation for rehabilitating wild animals. They said yes, of course.

Kai and his fellow inmates flew 5,400 miles from Japan to the United Kingdom, where they arrived on August 3. DHL provided air-conditioned road transport at a discounted price while the bears flew in the hold of Japanese airlines. The trip only costs £ 150,000.

A team of five veterans, two from Japan, helped with the move, which started at 36 ° C. Only Hanako, the 27-year-old woman, the most curious of the four, voluntarily entered a box. Amu, 27, a gentle giant, and brothers Kai and Riku had to be reassured.

First step towards a new life: Kai examines the ground with his claws, literally, while he feels tempted to explore more. 18 months ago, Western tourists, shocked by the sterile conditions, drew the attention of Wild Welfare on the four bears, a charity of the United Kingdom that helps captive wild animals.

First step towards a new life: Kai examines the ground with his claws, literally, while he feels tempted to explore more. 18 months ago, Western tourists, shocked by the sterile conditions, drew the attention of Wild Welfare on the four bears, a charity of the United Kingdom that helps captive wild animals.

First step towards a new life: Kai examines the ground with his claws, literally, while he feels tempted to explore more. 18 months ago, Western tourists, shocked by the sterile conditions, drew the attention of Wild Welfare on the four bears, a charity of the United Kingdom that helps captive wild animals.

Now Kai is stuck in: finally, cleared of his cage, he soon finds a fresh and tasty snack to eat. Kai and his fellow inmates flew 5,400 miles from Japan to the United Kingdom, where they arrived on August 3.

Now Kai is stuck in: finally, cleared of his cage, he soon finds a fresh and tasty snack to eat. Kai and his fellow inmates flew 5,400 miles from Japan to the United Kingdom, where they arrived on August 3.

Now Kai is stuck in: finally, cleared of his cage, he soon finds a fresh and tasty snack to eat. Kai and his fellow inmates flew 5,400 miles from Japan to the United Kingdom, where they arrived on August 3.

The bears flew to Tokyo first for the connecting flight to Heathrow.

Alan Tevendale, one of the vets, says: "We offered them water when we landed and the fans were placed around the cages, the conditions were not ideal, we were anxious."

When the bears arrived in Yorkshire, tired and confused, they were given time to get out of the boxes and into their huge and enriched dens: deep straw beds, water and fruits, vegetables, yogurt and eggs.

They also offered them strawberries and, you guessed it, honey. As greedy as Pooh, the new diet "never touched the sides," says Debbie Porter, animal manager at YWP, one of a team of five people dedicated to her care.

Everything is very far from their diet in Japan, where they lived on leftovers. "We have many, many cans of sardines," adds Debbie.

Hanako and Amu are hiding in two dens outside the boundaries of anyone other than their caretakers: it will take them a few weeks to recover from their trip, not to mention their 27-year confinement in a cage where they could only take four steps. But today is the first time that the two brothers ("They look alike", says Debbie) have been offered the freedom of the four-acre complex, £ 400,000, enriched, thanks to volunteers, with climbing frames, a hammock, giant tire and a swing pole.

Kai's door opens first, and he takes that very important first step. After a stay inside with his firefighter's toy, he ventures again, this time much bolder. Riku, the most timid of the two, refuses to leave his lair, standing on his hind legs unable to believe in his small eyes. But there is no way to stop Kai! He is galloping!

In a matter of minutes, after ripping the bark off a tree stump as easily as a plaster, he discovered the lake. Whoosh!

Having fun: Logging into your new environment. When the bears arrived in Yorkshire, tired and confused, they were given time to get out of boxes and venture into their huge, enriched dens: deep straw beds, water and fruits, vegetables, yogurt and eggs.

Having fun: Logging into your new environment. When the bears arrived in Yorkshire, tired and confused, they were given time to get out of boxes and venture into their huge, enriched dens: deep straw beds, water and fruits, vegetables, yogurt and eggs.

Having fun: Logging into your new environment. When the bears arrived in Yorkshire, tired and confused, they were given time to get out of boxes and venture into their huge, enriched dens: deep straw beds, water and fruits, vegetables, yogurt and eggs.

Make a noise: in a matter of minutes, after ripping the bark off a tree stump as easily as if it were a plaster, you discovered the lake. Whoosh!

Make a noise: in a matter of minutes, after ripping the bark off a tree stump as easily as if it were a plaster, you discovered the lake. Whoosh!

Make a noise: in a matter of minutes, after ripping the bark off a tree stump as easily as if it were a plaster, you discovered the lake. Whoosh!

I called Georgina to tell her we're filming Kai swimming. "This is a bear," says Georgina, with a voice full of emotion, "that she only had three inches of water in her cage for 17 years."

Kai splashes. He dives. He lifts water plants planted lovingly, and eats them. Emerge, half a ton of him, and shake the water from his fur.

The bears know their names, but, although they are called, Kai pretends that he has gone deaf. Refuses to enter. For the first time in his life, he is being a bear.

The bears have no muscular definition, rotten teeth, and strangely there are no eyebrows: the hair has been eroded by the constant rubbing on the bars of the cages. There are bald spots on the backgrounds, and their coats are dusty.

In addition to Kai's skin, of course, now elegant as an otter, and who still refuses to enter. "They're like naughty little kids," says Cheryl Williams, one of the YWP directors.

The rescue effort is praiseworthy and draws everyone's attention to the plight of captive Japanese bears: bears were even an object of the Today show.

Georgina says: "We can not rescue the 400 bears that were left behind. But we can educate people in Japan about enriching their environments. "

For now, Hanako has stopped walking, while the brothers have stopped vomiting. During the next weeks, they will be allowed to leave in pairs. It is difficult to understand that, since the puppies, they have only been able to touch the nostrils through the bars. They are expected to move abruptly, collapse in a fireman's hammock and maybe even get a bear hug. I bet Kai will take Riku by his paw and take him gently to the lake to clean up the past.

While we take the bears to night, I can feed Riku with a pear. He is surprisingly right-handed, and they tell me not to get too close.

But who could blame him if he were to rip a human's head off. We certainly deserve it.

To support the work of the charity work of the Yorkshire Wildlife Park, click here.

You can find mdetails of the mineral on the bears by clicking here.

Leaving all this behind: the old house of the bear: a rusty cage of 6 feet x 9 feet in a Japanese museum

Leaving all this behind: the old house of the bear: a rusty cage of 6 feet x 9 feet in a Japanese museum

Leaving all this behind: the old house of the bear: a rusty cage of 6 feet x 9 feet in a Japanese museum

The bears know their names, but, although they are called, Kai pretends that he has gone deaf. Refuses to enter. For the first time in his life, he is being a bear.

The bears know their names, but, although they are called, Kai pretends that he has gone deaf. Refuses to enter. For the first time in his life, he is being a bear.

The bears know their names, but, although they are called, Kai pretends that he has gone deaf. Refuses to enter. For the first time in his life, he is being a bear.

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