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Mongoose threatens Okinawa’s indigenous species

Date Posted: 2003-04-18

The mongoose is proving to be a stronger adversary than expected, wreaking havoc on efforts to save a number of Okinawa’s endangered species. Despite efforts to eradicate the mongoose from Okinawa, the animal has turned out to be a resourceful opponent.

The number of mongoose in Okinawa has grown to such proportions that drastic measures are now necessary to preserve the endangered indigenous birds and other animals, most notably Noguchigera (Pryer's Woodpecker) and Yambaru Kuina (Okinawa Rail). The mongoose was brought to Okinawa from India in the early 20th century in hopes that it would curb the number of venomous habu snakes in the prefecture.

Prefecture officials responsible for protecting local wildlife have a program in place that aims to eliminate the mongoose altogether. setting up traps to catch the animals.

They have also established a visual line reaching from Shioya in Ogimi Village across the island to Taira in Higashi Village. Their first goal is to rid the area north of this line of mongoose, as it is the primary habitat of several endangered bird species.

The mongoose seems to be oblivious to these efforts. In 2001, only 331 mongoose were captured, but within a year the number rose to 2,107 thank mostly to the increased efforts. However, wildlife specialists say much more needs to be done if the endangered birds are to survive. They estimate that about 20 percent of Okinawa’s mongoose population lives in the northern part of the island, where the need for protection is greatest.

To combat mongoose growth to the north, the prefecture is preparing to set up 600 new traps in the northern areas alone. Officials say that the cost of setting up and maintaining the traps is great, but it is the only chance that the two Okinawan native birds have to stay alive.

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