The increase in the number of feral goats on the Japanese island of Amami-Oshima worries wildlife experts
AMAMI, Kagoshima — The number of feral goats on Amami-Oshima Island off southwestern Japan’s Kagoshima Prefecture, which can cause landslides and loss of rare plants, has increased by more than 30 percent in the past seven years, according to a prefectural government survey found.
Goats have also been found living in the mountains, which are listed as World Heritage Sites, and conservationists are concerned about their impact on the island’s flora and fauna.
Mamoru Tsuneda, 68, a nature photographer and guide living in Amami, who encounters wild goats every time he goes to the mountains, commented: “They appear everywhere in herds.” Previously, the animals were most often found on the cliffs along the coast, but in recent years they have also appeared in the mountains.
“For the goats, it doesn’t matter if it’s a natural heritage site. They are active at night and graze down to their roots. Rare plants are also eaten,” Tsuneda said.
He says that when the weeds are eaten and the soil is exposed, the dirt and sand will run off, which will affect the ecosystem of the mountains. “We have to act upstream. It’s too late once they spread into the mountains, so we have to catch them quickly,” the photographer said.
In July 2021, the Kagoshima Prefectural Government researched the number and location of feral goats on the island on eight different routes by boat and confirmed 642 animals, 165 more than the previous survey in 2002. The prefecture also confirmed that the animals live in the mountains, including in the natural heritage area, from the images taken by the motion detector cameras installed in the forest and traces such as excrement
As a countermeasure, the five municipalities on the island have been capturing 200 to 300 goats per year since 2016, but their numbers continue to increase. While those involved in the hunting association are responsible for capturing the animals, many say they are not motivated to capture goats due to various legal restrictions, including the requirement that people killed with weapons fire pits are buried and those intended for personal consumption are captured. alive and slaughtered in a slaughterhouse.
The prefectural government said it will examine effective methods of capturing goats in fiscal 2022 taking note of the remote Ogasawara Islands in southern Tokyo, where authorities have successfully eradicated feral goats on some of the islets by driving them into fence traps and other measures.
On Amami-Oshima Island, goats that had been kept as livestock became feral because they were allowed to roam freely, and the problem became apparent around 2007. The following year, the five municipalities of the island enacted an ordinance prohibiting free-roaming goats and have since worked to capture them.
(Japanese original by Kazuaki Kanda, Amami Local Bureau)