White storks, a government-designated special natural treasure in Japan, are being released into the wild here in increasing numbers.
Wild white storks are believed to have gone extinct in Japan (due to over-hunting) in 1971. But attempts to breed storks and release them into nature began in Hyogo Prefecture in 2005.
Similar efforts began in two other areas of Japan in 2015, and the number of wild white storks in the nation is believed to have topped 100 this year.
Hyogo Prefecture’s Park for the endangered (only about 2000 left in the wild, worldwide) Oriental White Stork in Toyooka has now launched a project to restore the wild white stork population. The breeding program began wild storks provided by Russia, and has released 41 since 2005.
As often happens with species reintroduction efforts, this successful stork restoration has led to the need for wider ecosystem restoration. “White storks can now give birth and raise chicks in the wild in Toyooka,” said Yasuo Ezaki, research head of the park. But they “eat about 1 kg of food a day. We need to increase populations of freshwater fish and other living things as feed.”
Photo credit: KYODO