Viral Video Shows a Japanese Zoo's Polar Bear 'Escape Drill' and, Uh, It's Incredible

At Tobe Zoo, people dress in animal costumes and wreak havoc, "mauling" everything in their path.
Person in polar bear costume standing in a field
Photo by Cavan Images/ Getty Images

Zoos can be sad places. No matter how excellent their conservation work is, there's something depressing about seeing these wild, majestic creatures in gated enclosures, looking generally depressed and disaffected. So the Japanese zoo that stages animal escape drills and involve people dressed up as wild animals are a nice change of pace. These drills are orchestrated because the region is earth-quake prone, and the zoo wants to prepare for enclosure damage. They are also completely amazing.


A recent viral video captured Japan's Tobe Zoo running this kind of escape drill, and you should absolutely drop everything and watch it right now:

This person playing the role of the escaped bear is clearly Stanislavsky-trained, doing the most to create the realest escape drill experience possible. They see zoo attendants (or are they security detail? Hard to say!) holding a large capture net, and push one of them to the ground. Would a polar bear actually throw someone onto the ground instead of mauling them? Hmmm, doesn't seem to real but the level of commitment is admirable.

The polar bear actor then chases two hapless folks who appear to be civilians (i.e. non-zoo employees) through the seated area, and then also throws them onto the floor. A small pickup truck rolls by and Mr. Polar Bear gets "hit" with what appears to be, at least in theory, a tranquilizer dart, before delivering an Oscar-worthy fall to the ground. Zoo employees return with SWAT-style shields and form a barricade before poking him with a stick to ensure he is truly down for the count.

Though all of this, the employees working to "capture" the polar bear actor maintain a disaffected solemnity—their blank eyes stare into the middle distance as they get pushed, run around, and shoot darts. (And even the actual, real, honest-to-God polar bear in the beginning of the video looks bored as hell.) It's obviously just another day of work to these employees. But it begs the question: What kind of budget do they have for this sort of thing? One assumes it's a lot, if it's a regular event—the drill has included people wearing animal costumes from gorillas to zebras to lions. So, are they hiring? Asking…for a friend.

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