Wildlife in Asia: Cultural Perspectives

By John Knight | Go to book overview

12

WOLF REINTRODUCTION IN JAPAN?

John Knight


Introduction

Wolf conservation initiatives have often generated conflicts with local populations. In Minnesota in the 1970s, ‘people choked Eastern timber wolves to death in snares to show their contempt for the animal’s designation as an endangered species’ (Lopez 1995:139), and cattle ranchers in this same state reportedly ‘shoot, shovel, and shut up’ when they encounter protected wolves (DiSilvestro 1991:105). Proponents of wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone National Park have declared wolf conservation to be a test case of public commitment to conservation as such. Although wolf reintroduction in America appears to enjoy considerable public support, it has also attracted opposition among the local people most directly affected, especially ranchers who see the reintroduced wolves as a threat to their livestock herds as well as an unwarranted national interference in local affairs (Paystrup 1993). Wolf conservation in Sweden has led to conflict with Saami reindeer herders whose herds are threatened by the protected wolves, and to high-profile public protests by the herders in the national capital (Lindquist 2000:170). In Norway wolf reintroduction is condemned as an illegitimate attempt by the central state to dominate sheep farmers: ‘They know that if they can get farmers to accept and adapt to the wolf, they can get the farmers to accept anything!’ (Brox 2000:391, emphasis original). It is increasingly recognized that the success or failure of such conservation initiatives hinges on local reactions to them.

This chapter examines the issue of wolf reintroduction in Japan. Wolves became extinct in Japan at the beginning of the twentieth century. In 1993 an organization called the Japan Wolf Association (Nihon ōkami kyōkai, hereafter JWA) launched a campaign to reintroduce wolves to Japan. Influenced by wolf reintroduction debates abroad (and the Yellowstone wolf reintroduction campaign in particular), the JWA has proposed that colonies of wolves from continental Asia be established in a number of upland areas across Japan. In the examples above, wolf conservation or reintroduction appears as a threat to local livelihoods, but a central argument advanced by the JWA is that in Japan the

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