The Japanese are now experiencing a problem as wild boars take over ghost towns of ageing residents. Less than 20 years ago the only challenge for the 100 residents of the tiny island of Kakara, off South East Japan, were the elements and ensuring the fishermen’s catch could get to market on time.
Today, the islanders are outnumbered three to one by wild boar which feed on their gardens and are becoming aggressive and territorial. The problems facing the residents of Kakara are being repeated across Japan with boar numbers exploding as rural populations decline. Japan’s rapidly ageing and shrinking population is part of the reason behind the increase in wild boar, as older rural populations die out leaving towns and villages empty. Meanwhile, young people are moving to the cities in search of work. The number of people with shot-gun licences has also fallen sharply in recent years.
The first boars apparently swam to Kakara, which covers a mere one square mile and sits between Fukuoka and Saga prefectures. They have found a place with no natural predators and plenty of crops such as pumpkins and sweet potatoes, which the locals grow in their gardens. Other than farming and fishing, the island’s only other industries were small scale tourism and growing camellias for use in cosmetics.
Kyodo News reported that the famously aggressive boar have chased the tourists away and eaten the camellia plants. Local children cannot play outdoors for fear of being attacked and residents have stopped walking even relatively short distances for fear of encountering one of the aggressive creatures.
Islanders have set countless traps and catch around 50 of their tormentors every year, but that figure is far outstripped by the rapidly breeding boar population – a sow can give birth to as many as 6 piglets a year. Some residents are suggesting that they should evacuate the island, abandoning it to the wild pigs.
Across Japan, confrontations between boar and man are inevitable. In October, a large specimen barrelled into a suburban shopping mall on the island of Shikoku, biting 5 staff before it was captured. In December, boars managed to get into a high school in Kyoto and panicked students had to be evacuated. Elsewhere, they are finding their way out of the forests and fields and into train stations, gardens and school sports grounds. And with few checks on the boars’ territory they, are growing larger as well as more numerous.
In February, farmers in North East Japan caught a male that weighed in at 280 lbs. The animals are also expanding their range into areas that were considered inhospitable, taking over villages with shrinking populations. They are being given greater licence to roam in areas close to the Fukushima Nuclear Plant abandoned in March 2011, in the aftermath of the destruction of three of the plant’s reactors and the release of radiation around the surrounding countryside. Local people fled to safety; the wild life remained and thrived.
What a serious problem Japan faces. With its declining population getting worse, wild life will consequently increase to the detriment of small villages which will find themselves easy targets to an expanding population of more deadly wild animals. The authorities surely must act in earnest before it’s too late.