May 1, 2016

Tours feeding endangered wild owls in Shiretoko

According to Asahi Newspaper of December 8, 2015, Visitors to Shiretoko are "able to witness the Blakiston's fish owl up close in a special program organized by the Shiretoko Rausu Tourism Association in Rausu, a town in the Shiretoko Peninsula of eastern Hokkaido." Unlike the policy of other nations such as Yellowstone National Park in USA, "Live fish are placed inside a small pool surrounded by rocks within the river and it is here that the bird can be watched by the tourists." In Yellowstone, "Do not feed any wild animals, including birds and squirrels."
Because this species is critically endangered in Japan, the Environment Ministry of Japan "started working on the conservation of the owls from 1984, mainly by setting up feeding stations and bird houses in its habitat."
The Shiretoko was  selected as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2005. An Environment Ministry official said, "We hope it [this tour] progresses smoothly in the right direction.” A tour guide said, “Down here, the Blakiston's fish owl shows its true form in the wild."
According to Asahi Newspaper of March 8 (in Japanese), The Ministry of Environment decided a new policy not to accept such a feeding tour. For the Shiretoko area, these owls have never been fed by the government project. The Shiretoko population of this species is a big source and Shiretoko is a World Heritage site.
Japan Air Lines advertised a tour including this fish-owl show on the March 2016 issue of JAL in-flight magazine SKYWARD. But this advertisement disappeared on Skyward website by mid March.  
As of April 30, the Rausu sightseeing association still continues this tour.
See also my opinion on the Asahi WEBRONZA of March 15, 2016 (in Japanese).


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