Nanae Hokkaido missing child Yamato Tanooka
Yamato Tanooka, 7, has not been seen since being left in bear-infested woods in Japan as a punishmentGoogle Streetview

Parents of a missing seven-year-old boy, who went missing in bear-infested woods on Japan's Hokkaido island, have admitted leaving him in the woods as a punishment. Around 150 rescuers are scouring the area near the town of Nanae, but Yamato Tanooka has not been seen since being left in woods on Saturday, 28 May.

Yamato's parents first said he had wandered off while picking wild vegetables. However, they later admitted to police they had lied and had left him in the woods – which are populated by brown bears – to punish him for throwing stones at cars. They said they only went about 500 metres and left him for about five minutes, but when they returned he had vanished.

"The parents left the boy in the mountains as a punishment," a spokesman for the police said. "They said they went back to the site immediately but the boy was no longer there."

Yamato's father, 44-year-old Takayuki, later told a reporter from Asahi TV he had been afraid to tell the truth when he asked police to conduct a search. It is not known if the parents will face charges. The search for Yamato continues.

Brown bears can be extremely aggressive animals towards other bears, but generally do not attack unless they believe they are being threatened. Female brown bears in Hokkaido's Shiretoko Peninsula are known to approach and peacefully spend time near humans, along with their cubs. It's theorised that the unique behaviour evolved so that female bears would not encounter aggressive male bears which may pose a danger to their cubs.

Deserted children

In 2015, a three-day-old girl was found alive, but being eaten by ants in Chelyabinsk, Russia. The baby was still attached to her umbilical cord. The baby made a full recovery.

In the US, in 2015, 41-year-old Nyia Parler allegedly left her paraplegic son, 21, in the woods in Philadelphia for five days with just a blanket and a bible so she could spend time with her boyfriend. The son recovered in hospital but his mother faces an attempted murder charge.

Also in 2015, it emerged that a child under five was accidentally left in woods during a nursery school outing in Ampthill, Bedfordshire. The nursery apologised unreservedly to parents.

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