For four days, a 7-year-old boy has been missing in bear-inhabited woods in northern Japan. His parents initially said he disappeared as the family was gathering food in the forest, but later admitted leaving him alone intentionally, as a punishment.
More than a hundred people continued to search for Yamato Tanooka on Tuesday, to no avail.
Yamato had no food or water, The Guardian reports, and the past four days have seen heavy rain and nighttime temperatures in the mid-40s.
The area where he disappeared on Hokkaido, a northern island in Japan, is also home to bears. Fresh bear feces were reportedly discovered on Tuesday, The Guardian writes.
Here’s how The Japan Times describes the controversial circumstances of the boy’s disappearance:
“His parents originally told the police that he got lost while the family was walking in the area to pick wild vegetables.
“The boy’s 44-year-old father, Takayuki Tano-oka, eventually told the police they left the boy in the mountains on the way home from a park after scolding him for throwing stones at cars on a nearby road.
” ‘The parents left the boy in the mountains as punishment,’ the police spokesman said. ‘They said they went back to the site immediately, but the boy was no longer there.’ “
Police said the boy was left alone for five minutes, according to the Kyodo News service.
Kyodo News also says police are investigating whether the parents should be charged with child endangerment, according to The Associated Press.