18 January 2011, 15:32

Russian wolves against Japanese wild boars

Russian wolves against Japanese wild boars

Japanese farmers are hoping to defend their crop fields from inroads of wild boars and deer by using wolves that they plan to bring from Russia. A project to this effect is already on the Japanese government’s table.

Japanese farmers are hoping to defend their crop fields from inroads of wild boars and deer by using wolves that they plan to bring from Russia. A project to this effect is already on the Japanese government’s table.

Experts point to the Island of Kyushu, which is famous for its dried "shiitake" mushrooms- a popular treat in local cuisine and a food of choice for wild boars. Their ever-increasing population on Kyushu remains the main headache for local farmers who are also concerned about wild deer’s inroads on the cultivated rice fields. The farmers are trying their best to fix the problem on their own, but to no avail. Suffice it to mention the Japanese city of Bungoono, where the problem caused about 300,000 dollars in damage last year. Given that wolves were totally destroyed in Japan last century, all eyes will understandably be on Russia’s readiness to cooperate on the matter, which is a headache of quite a few countries, including the United States. A pack of wolves was brought there from Canada last year to secure crop fields.  

Maria Vorontsova, of the World Wildlife Fund, believes that Japan shot itself in the foot by deciding to destroy wolves in the 20th century.

"It was a typical situation at the time, when wolves were seen by many as harmful predators that must be exterminated by all means," Vorontsova says, citing the United States and Western Europe, where wolves were totally destroyed. Right now, she explains, wolf populations remain only in Spain and Germany."

Hunting wolves for decades, people played down the fact that wolves contribute considerably to regulating some species’ populations, which rightly prompted environmentalists to call these predators “forest ambulant attendants”. "Small wonder, therefore, that Japanese scientists are now scratching their heads in an attempt to rectify the situation and restore the wolf population in their country as soon as possible. This is certainly a tricky task," Maria Vorontsova says.

"Wolf population restoration efforts are specifically fulfilled within the framework of the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN)," Vorontsova explains, separately warning against dealing with the wolves based in zoos. Such species will understandably be doomed in the wild, she says, stressing the importance of sticking to IUCN norms."

Vorontsova also cautioned against sending too many wolf species to Japan, which she said is fraught with uncontrolled wolf population growth there. "It is up to Japanese authorities to finally decide on the topic," she said, echoed by Tokyo-based wolf expert Naoki Maruyama, who cited the scientifically proven efficiency of using wolves for the protection of crop fields. Separately, he reassured Japanese farmers about wolves’ possible attacks on people, which he said is “a very rare phenomenon”.

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