Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wildlife protection and nature conservation

On 8th of November, my hubby accompanied me for the evening walk. While we were waiting for the traffic signal to change from red to green to cross a road that is located only about 200 meters away from our home, hubby noted an interesting signboard put up just next to where we were standing. The signboard pole was bent at an angle of about 60 degrees (with respect to the ground) probably due to the fierce windy conditions of Akita prefecture. Hubby had to tilt his head sideways to read the signboard, which read ‘Gun hunting prohibited area’. We walked further for about 1.5 km and noted three more signboards with two of them indicating ‘Wildlife protection area’ and the third one indicating ‘Temporary game preserve area’. We were quite surprised as all these signboards were put up within a two km range from our home. The place where we live, though not a typical urban locale, is surely not a forest area! In fact, officially the place is a city area. Therefore, the presence of these signboards near our home really surprised us. Nowadays during the evening walks I am expecting a wild bear to come down the mountains and show up in front of me! Jokes apart, I was rather curious to know about these signboards. So I went to enquire about it in the City Hall of the place where we live. The complete blank look on the face of the official at the information counter of the City Hall office indicated that she had no idea about it. Later, I looked up the webpage of the Ministry of the Environment of the Government of Japan to know the answers.

Photos of the signboards

In Akita Prefecture, various development actions have modified the landforms and affected the habitations and the breeding environments of various wildlife. Some of the wildlife have been greatly reduced in number, and some others have become extinct. In order to protect these and to maintain the biodiversity, the Ministry of the Environment of the Government of Japan is responsible for various issues. Some of these issues are Wildlife protection and conservation, Natural Parks, and World Natural Heritages. I will briefly write about these issues.

To protect wildlife and preserve endangered species, it is important to protect habitat, regulate hunting, prevent illegal killing, and implement any other measures necessary for the purpose. The wildlife protection system of the Ministry of the Environment of Japan preserves wildlife by enforcing the Wildlife Protection and Hunting Law and the Law for the Conservation of Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna.
Protection of mammals and birds is carried out under the Wildlife Protection and Hunting Law. Various protection measures include restriction on game species, hunting areas, and hunting periods & methods, establishment of wildlife protection areas, and designation of special wildlife protection areas. Appropriate management includes control of hunting like establishment of temporary wildlife protection areas, designation of gun hunting prohibited areas etc. Protection of endangered wildlife is carried out by regulation for the acquisition and transfer of endangered species of wild fauna and flora, and designation of natural habitat conservation areas.
The signboards that we saw were put up under the Wildlife Protection and Hunting Law.

Natural Parks
Various National Parks, Quasi-National Parks, and Prefectural Natural Parks are included in Natural Parks Law. National Parks are locations where development and other types of human activities are restricted in order to protect the superb natural landscapes that are representative of the best that Japan has to offer. A part of Towada-Hachimantai national Park, a part of Kurikorna and Chokai quasi-national park, and Oga quasi-national park are located in Akita prefecture.

Wilderness Areas and Nature Conservation Areas
The Nature Conservation Law protects and manages natural resources and natural ecosystems aided by other related laws. The Nature Conservation Law makes provisions for the establishment of the following areas
(a) Wilderness Areas are areas that preserve and maintain the original ecosystem and are free of human influence.
(b) Nature Conservation Areas are natural areas that preserve and maintain the natural ecosystems like alpine and sub alpine vegetation, outstanding natural forests, natural phenomena, valuable wildlife of rivers, sea coasts and lakes, and marine areas with valuable wildlife.
(c) Prefectural Nature Conservation Areas are areas other than marine areas that preserve and maintain valuable natural environment at the prefectural level.

Zoning is done for the protection of the ecosystem.
(a) Wilderness area: Activities that negatively impact the ecosystem are strictly prohibited. Entry into this area is restricted and regulated to protect the ecosystem.
(b) Nature conservation area has three zones. They are special zone where activities approved by the regulations are permitted, wildlife protection zone where the capture and collection of designated species are regulated in principle, and ordinary zones where prior notification is required before carrying out designated activities.

The district of Shirakami Sanchi of Aomori and Akita prefectures is natural forest and is the largest natural beech forest in Japan with valuable flora and fauna, e.g., Black woodpecker. This area comes under the category of Nature conservation areas. Prefectural Government of Akita has designated all the areas of Akita as Special Zones and Wildlife protection zones. The signboards we saw during our evening walk falls under this category also.

World Heritage: Shirakami Sanchi
The Japanese beech (Fagus crenata) forest in the Shirakami-Sanchi World Heritage Area is unique among world forests because of its high purity, preservation of very old trees, and diversity of plants and animals. The Heritage Area represents the new beech forests that appeared in East Asia after the Ice Age. The management plan aims for the appropriate and efficient management of the Heritage Area through fostering close relationships among the Ministry of the Environment, the Forestry Agency, and the Agency for Cultural Affairs of Aomori and Akita prefectures.
The basic management framework of the Heritage Area is divided into two major classifications. The Core Area has especially high-grade vegetation and has not been significantly affected by human activity. The Core Area is protected by the strict enforcement of conservation regulations under the jurisdiction of several rules: as a Special Zone and a Wildlife Protection Zone in the Nature Conservation Area, as a Special Protection Zone in the Quasi-National Park, and as a Preservation Area in the Forest Ecosystem Reserve. The area surrounding the Core Area serves as a Buffer Area. Conservation measures in the Buffer Area are under the jurisdiction of the Ordinary Areas of the Nature Conservation Area and the Conservation and Utilization Zones of the Forest Ecosystem Reserve. Parts of the Buffer Areas are included the Quasi-National Park and Prefectural Natural Parks.

Nature Conservation Area: These areas must specifically conserve the natural environment and must have extraordinary natural forests. The core of Shirakami-sanchi was designated as the "Shirakami-sanchi Nature Conservation Area" in 1992. It comes under the Special Zone category where special conservation measures are implemented. This Area is also designated as a Wildlife Protection Zone. The areas not within the designated Special Zone are in the Ordinary Zone of the Buffer Area.
Natural Parks: The Natural Parks Law makes provisions for the designation of three types of parks, i.e., National Parks, Quasi-National Parks, and Prefectural Natural Parks. The Parks have two distinct zones: the Special Zone and the Special Protection Zone. The Heritage Area includes the Kimimachizaka-Fujisato-kyo Prefectural Natural Park which is designated and managed by the Akita Prefectural Governor based on a prefectural ordinance.
Forest Ecosystem Reserve: These areas are established and managed by the Forestry Agency in accordance with National Forest Management Rules. The entire Heritage Area overlaps the Forest Ecosystem Reserve, where the Core Area coincides with the Preservation Area and the Buffer Area coincides with the Conservation and Utilization Zone.

So we can conclude that there is a lot of overlap in the laws and policies of various government agencies. The purpose of these laws and policies are to deal with various issues like wildlife protection, nature conservation, and management of world heritage like Shirakami Sanchi and preservation of its flora and fauna.



google said...

wow.. you guys really live in jungle :D

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Yeah, the place surely feels like a forest area!
But I am enjoying the surroundings very much after having lived my whole life in city areas.