MIYAZAKI – Students in the town of Kadogawa, Miyazaki Prefecture, have been raising awareness to save the town’s endangered murrelets, whose habitat is being threatened by crows gathering to eat food left by anglers.
The population of the seabirds, which have crested feathers, is believed to be around 6,000 to 10,000. The Environment Ministry has placed them on its official list of endangered species.
Kadogawa is home to their largest breeding ground, Biro Island.
Yutaka Nakamura, an officer at Miyazaki University who studies the seabirds, said their habitat has been increasingly damaged in recent years. In 1994, 600 eggs were found that were believed to have been cracked open by crows.
The public had not been really interested in protecting the birds and often regarded them as a nuisance to anglers.
But a picture book created by local elementary school students and Kumiko Tanoue, who was then teaching at the school, received an overwhelmingly positive response at the Japan-U.S. Seabird Symposium held in the Hokkaido town of Haboro in 2002.
In addition, local high school students and their teacher, Satoshi Kameda, have been trying to bring attention to the birds’ plight by selling seabird-shaped cookies at school festivals and town events.
They have been donating profits to fund activities that require a stay on the island, including studying the birds’ population and cleaning up their habitat.
“Many people have been unaware of the crisis, including myself,” Tanoue said. “I think the students’ enthusiasm has moved the adults.”
The town named the seabird as its official bird last fall. It also published the picture book in February.
The conservation movement continues to expand. A cruise ship around the island, on which high school students work as guides, has drawn many passengers from in and outside the town since it was launched last month.
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