Monday, November 06, 2006

Can't see the bears for the trees...

It's a little known fact that Japan has bears, which hide out in its abundant mountains and occasionally pose for photographers. There are bears in Tottori and Eastern Shimane (i.e. my town) as well, though the pictures I have seen don't make them seem very large. Shimane university has a bear-watching club, so maybe they can be seen up close (like this one).

An article in the Daily Yomiuri yesterday contained some amusing facts regarding bears in Japan. Particularly, they are starting to wander in amongst farmhouses and human habitation a lot more than they used to, and last year a 70 year old man died when a bear scared and/or mauled him. The government is currently trying to think of some solutions for this problem.

I know what you are thinking dear reader: this is a problem caused by the relentless pressure of human habitation encroaching on the natural world, man [sic] is nature's worst enemy, see how we destroy all we love, etc. Well, hair-shirted hippy, you are wrong. In Japan the problem is the opposite - they have too much forest, and in rural areas houses near the forest are slowly being depopulated. They have so much forest, and timber imports are now so cheap compared to Japanese forestry products, that many forest areas near homes are not being managed. As the undergrowth grows and the forests thicken, bears are able to leave the forest and wander up to roads and houses without being seen. As houses near the forest edge are abandoned, bears move in amongst villages under the cover of overgrown gardens.

So the proposed solution? Not to shoot the bears, but to cut the undergrowth around roads and towns so that bears are not willing to sneak up to houses. In the cold light of day, those persimmons on strings just won't appear so juicy any more...


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