Government may establish new national park in Okinawa for UNESCO listing

JIJI

The Environment Ministry plans to establish a 33rd national park on Okinawa to protect an endangered bird endemic to the area and one of the nation’s biggest subtropical evergreen forests, informed sources have learned.

The species in question is the Yanbaru kuina, or Okinawa rail, which is at risk of extinction.

The ministry hopes to make a decision in July after receiving a report from the Central Environmental Council, which advises the minister.

The tentatively named “Yanbaru National Park” will be in the northern Okinawa.

Part of Okinawa Kaigan Quasi-National Park, which extends along the coast, will be included in the new 17,300-hectare national park, the sources said Saturday.

The new park will also have a 790-hectare special protection zone where strict rules, such as a ban on plant and animal collection, will be enforced, and a 4,402-hectare Class-1 special zone where buildings will be prohibited.

The government is seeking to have the Amami and Ryukyu island chains, along with the area hosting the park, registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site for natural assets in 2018.

UNESCO has called on Japan to strengthen environmental conservation in the area as a condition for listing.

On Tuesday, the ministry decided to expand the area of Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park to cover the whole of Iriomote Island, part of Okinawa and one of the Amami and Ryukyu islands.