AMAMI, Kagoshima — The number of feral goats on Amami-Oshima Island off southwest Japan’s Kagoshima Prefecture, which can cause landslides and the loss of rare plants, has risen more than 30% over the past seven years, according to a prefectural government survey uncovered.
The goats have also been found in the World Heritage-listed mountains, and conservationists are concerned about their impact on the island’s flora and fauna.
Mamoru Tsuneda, 68, an Amami-based wildlife photographer and guide who encounters wild goats every time he goes to the mountains, commented, “They appear in herds everywhere.” Previously, the animals were most commonly found on cliffs along the coast found, but in recent years they have also appeared in the mountains.
“For the goats, it doesn’t matter if it’s a natural heritage. They are nocturnal and eat to the roots. Even rare plants are eaten,” says Tsuneda.
He says if the weeds are eaten and the soil is exposed, soil and sand will run off and this will affect the ecosystem in the mountains. “We have to act in time. Once they spread in the mountains, it’s too late, so we have to catch them quickly,” the photographer pointed out.
In July 2021, the Kagoshima prefectural government surveyed the number and location of wild goats on the island on eight different boat routes and confirmed 642 animals, 165 more than the previous survey in 2002. The prefectural government also confirmed that animals live in the mountains, also within the natural heritage zone, from the images captured by motion sensor cameras installed in the forest, and from traces such as droppings
As a countermeasure, the island’s five communities have been capturing 200 to 300 goats annually since 2016, but their numbers continue to rise. While those involved in the hunting association are responsible for capturing the animals, many say they are not motivated to capture goats due to various legal restrictions, including the requirement that those killed with guns be buried and those captured for personal consumption must be alive and slaughtered in a slaughterhouse.
The prefectural government said it will review efficient methods of capturing the goats in fiscal year 2022 by taking notes from the remote Ogasawara Islands south of Tokyo, where authorities have successfully eradicated wild goats on some of the islands by trapping them in fences and have driven other measures.
On Amami-Oshima Island, goats raised as livestock became feral when allowed to roam free, and the problem became evident around 2007. The following year, the island’s five municipalities enacted an ordinance banning free-roaming goats, and have since been working to capture them.
(Japanese original by Kazuaki Kanda, Amami Local Bureau)