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Mongoose poses exceedingly grave threat to native birds

Date Posted: 2005-04-23

There are 25 different species of wildlife in the northern Okinawa that are indigenous to the island, and almost all are threatened by the increasing numbers of mongoose. Mongoose was introduced to Okinawa from India at the turn of the century to fight habu whose bites caused serious injuries to local farmers.

Now the mongoose has spread further north and threatens to decimate populations of Yambaru Kuina and Noguchigera that only live in the northern jungles of Okinawa.

According to Assistant Professor Tsuyoshi Ogura of the Agricultural Section of the University of the Ryukyus, there is nothing wrong with mongoose per se. “Mongoose is a very cute and cuddly animal, but is does not belong to Okinawa. Nature is very hard and when a foreign species is introduced to a new environment, it can be a disaster to native animals,” Ogura explains.

Ogura says that the prefecture has over years tried to cull the number of mongoose, but very little success. “A number of years ago the prefecture constructed a fence across the island to prevent the mongoose from spreading north, but a mongoose is a very good jumper, and when their numbers in the south increased to the point that there were too many of them comparing to available food, they had no problem jumping the fence,” Ogura said.

He said that mongoose also eats Okinawa’s indigenous lizards that are also on the endangered list. “I once studied mongoose dietary habits. When I opened their stomachs, it turned out that 48 percent of their foods were various kinds of reptiles. They also eat rare frogs that live only in Motobu area,” Ogura explained.

He said that last year officials used traps to catch and exterminate 1,600 mongoose, but that number does not even make a dent to their numbers. There are also plans to build a new and higher fence further north. “Something has to be done. Otherwise they run over the entire island and all our treasures of nature will be gone in not too distant future,” Ogura concludes.

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