Village moves to save rare woodpecker

NAHA, Okinawa Pref. (Kyodo) A village in Okinawa will propose on Friday the first ordinance aimed at protecting the Okinawa woodpecker, a special national treasure found only in the northern parts of the prefecture’s main island, village officials said Thursday.

The Higashi Assembly is expected to pass the ordinance next Thursday, allowing the village to designate a protected area for the bird, which is an endangered species, and levy a fine of up to ¥300,000 for violations, such as entering the district without permission or making excessive noise in the area.

The village decided to draft the ordinance after woodpecker sightings began emerging near residential areas, spurring speculation the bird was being forced out of its natural backwoods habitat by expanding development in the mountains.

“It is a landmark move to designate protection areas in the sphere of human habitation and will be the first step toward expanding breeding,” an expert said, noting the bird tends to stop building nests and breeding when approached by humans.

According to the Environment Ministry, the Okinawa woodpecker is an endangered species at extremely high risk of extinction. Its population is estimated at around 500.

After the ordinance is enacted, the village plans to allocate a budget to assign observers to patrol the district. It will also ask landowners to agree on setting up protective areas on or around their land if the bird has been found to have been nesting on private property, the officials said.