We visited the Oriental White Stork (Ciconia boyciana) sanctuary near the town of Toyooka in the Hyogo prefecture. The species became extinct in Japan in 1971 due to loss of habitat through unsustainable farming practices and hunting. In 2005, oriental white storks from Russia were reintroduced to Japan. The program was successful and by the end of 2013, the wild population of storks reached 76. The sanctuary has an excellent museum and education center besides the breeding program. There looked to be about 20 storks there and two flew in from the outside while we were there. Owen and I went for a hike around the reserve’s land, which led up into the hills. It was very beautiful and ended with a “birds-eye” view of a large stork landing in the reserve. They look like graceful sky divers.
The reintroduction program besides protected breeding, consists of working with local farmers to practice “stork-friendly” farming practices. This means reducing and eliminating use of pesticides and artificial fertilizers, keeping standing water in rice paddies so fish and frogs can survive, and diversifying crops like planting of soya and sorghum. The group also dug canals and built fish ladders in local rivers to help fish populations.
The Oriental White Stork is a beautiful bird. It soars in flight so easily and the black and white contrast on the plumage is striking. Their main breeding grounds are in the far east of Russia and northeastern China. In Japan, they prefer a mixed agriculture / woodland wet areas such as rice paddies, swamps, rivers and reservoirs, inland from the coast. Its diet includes fish, frogs, snakes, mice, grasshoppers, and crabs and they have an activity range of 2-10 square kilometers.
I still haven’t bought a new camera so the iPhone photos will have to suffice for this blog post. I highly recommend a visit to the center. There are cool origami activities for the kids, a nice cafe and gift shop, and it is a pretty area with hills and paddies.
The stork has a prominent place in Japanese culture and it is great to see this reintroduction to the wild.