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Towns near crippled Fukushima nuclear plant see surge in wildlife (Mainichi)

What are believed to be iron age pigs wander about in a storehouse of a farmers' cooperative in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture. (Photo courtesy of the Tomioka Municipal Government)

What are believed to be iron age pigs wander about in a storehouse of a farmers’ cooperative in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture. (Photo courtesy of the Tomioka Municipal Government)

TOMIOKA, Fukushima — An increasing number of wild “iron age pigs” — a cross between wild boars and domestic pigs — has been seen in this town near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, destroying homes and crops while residents have been evacuated due to the triple disaster.

Following the onset of the Fukushima plant accident in March 2011, some 20 iron age pigs that were being raised for meat in Tomioka escaped. The Ministry of the Environment and the local government set up traps in the area and had captured around 120 iron age pigs by January this year. While it is difficult to distinguish iron age pigs from wild boars, officials believe most of the captured boars are the former, and that they had reproduced in great numbers.

The town’s industry promotion section sub chief Shinya Kurosawa, 46, said, “There are many more iron age pigs left. We have no idea how many.”

When Mainichi reporters went to Tomioka this month, we saw five wild iron age pigs, including piglets, wandering around the town in less than an hour. In December last year, a door to the agricultural cooperative’s storage house was found broken, and 3 tons of rice (worth about 600,000 yen) inside the storehouse had been eaten. An investigation found two-towed tracks all over the place near the site.

The population of wild boars also has been increasing near the Fukushima plant. The town of Namie, where all residents have been ordered to flee following the plant accident, has seen 43 reported cases of damage to homes caused by wild boars from April last year to Feb. 24. In November, Namie residents who were making a brief visit to their home were attacked by wild boars.

Hiroshi Sakai, chief of the nature conservation section of the Fukushima Prefectural Government, explained that wild boars that have been multiplying in deserted evacuation zones have been wandering about in nearby areas.

Meanwhile, reported sightings of raccoons — designated as an invasive alien species — in the prefecture is also on the rise. In the city of Date, 1,100 raccoons were captured between April last year and this January, marking an increase of some 600 from the same period last year.

The Ministry of the Environment is conducting a commissioned project to capture the wild animals in Namie, Futaba, Okuma and Tomioka, towns where residents cannot return. The Tomioka government has recently established a hunter group comprising 14 residents with hunting licenses. The town is considering paying 20,000 yen per pig from April this year to catch more unwanted wild animals.

Wildlife management expert Yuji Kodera of Utsunomiya University points out that areas near the crippled plant have provided comfortable habitats for wild boars as there are no humans and plenty of abandoned crops, adding that the number of wild boars may increase even further in several years. “It is dangerous for humans to encounter wild animals that have forgotten to guard themselves against people by maintaining their distance,” Kodera said.

http://mainichi.jp/english/english/features/news/20140226p2a00m0na014000c.html

 

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