今朝、特別天然記念物に指定されていた「ニホンカワウソ」が環境省に絶滅種に指定されたニュースを受けて、非常に残念に思いました。直近観察されたのは、明治、大正でなく、30年前です。ある程度、先進国で環境に対する意識が高まって、知識が進んできていた頃かと思います。
自然に対して深い関心を誇る日本人が、この事情についてどう感じているでしょうか。
この30年間の間、社会は何を優先にしていたでしょう。
今、日本が幾つかの名所の世界遺産登録に力を注いでいますが、身の回りの自然も守らずを得ないと思います。
私の生まれ育ったオーストラリアにも絶滅の恐れのある動物が数多く、既に絶滅したのも少なくないです。自然保護について威張るところがあると思いません。
しかし、日本に来てから、一つ不思議に思ったことは、オーストラリアと違って、地元の動物が揃う動物園が見つかれません。
海外から旅行で来る友達に、日本動物に何がある、どこで見えるかなどとよく訊かれます。
勿論、動物園で見るより、自然で生息しているのが望ましいですが、意識・関心を高める為に、狸、猿、モモンガ、カモシカ等など、日本の動物と出会いができる動物園が欲しいですね。

(English outline)

Japan’s Ministry of the Environment today announced that they had re-classified the Japanese river otter (Lutra lutra whiteleyi) as “extinct.” Somehow, this announcement made me feel quite sad, although I don’t follow animal conservation issues very closely. The television news said that the otter had last be seen in the wild some 30 years ago. This prompted me to think that I was around 12 years old at the time, so it’s not so very long ago. I would have thought that an advanced nation such as Japan would have sufficient awareness and concern to be able to prevent the creatures extinction in this day and age. My thinking is obviously simplistic. But it did make me question where society’s priorities have lain during these 30 years.

Currently, moves are afoot in Japan to register a number of natural assets (Mt Fuji, for example) as World Heritage. Sometimes I wonder if the focus should be re-directed towards preserving the more immediate environment.

Digressing slightly, since coming to Japan I have been a little disappointed that I have not managed to find a zoo of Japanese animals. In Australia, we have countless zoos dedicated to the unique and unusual local fauna. Friends who have visited from Australia often ask me what animals there are in Japan, and when I tell them about tanuki, monkeys, boar, Japanese serow, and flying squirrels, they naturally want to know where we can go to see Japanese animals. Alas, zoos in Japan are places to go and see lions, elephants and zebras, and there seems to be little interest in Japan’s mundane wildlife.

While it would be preferable to be able to see these creatures in their natural environment, for educational purposes, and to increase awareness and appreciation of the local fauna, I hope some day to see a Japan zoo.