KARATSU – An increase in wild boars has upturned the balance on a small island in the Genkai Sea, with the animals outnumbering residents three-to-one.
Over 300 boars are now living on the 2.8-sq.-km Kakara Island, which lies off the coast of Saga prefecture.
While there have been no injuries so far, “People will be forced off the island if the current situation continues,” said a resident of the islet, population 100.
The boars arrived about 15 years ago. They are thought to have swum the 3 kilometers from Kyushu.
Even today, boars are occasionally seen swimming off the island. Teruki Kawasaki, 27, a local Japan Coast Guard official, saw a pair of boars swimming while he was aboard a patrol boat. They were “good swimmers,” he said.
Boars have thrived on Kakara due to an absence of natural predators and an abundance of crops, including pumpkins and sweet potatoes, said a an official of Karatsu city, Saga Prefecture, which the island belongs to administratively.
Islanders had hopes of producing cosmetics from camellias growing in clusters on the island to generate revenue and promote tourism, but the boars have inflicted widespread damage.
The island has steep cliffs, making it difficult to hunt the boars with dogs. So islanders set up traps in bushes and capture around 50 boars a year, but they are unable to keep up with the growing population. A sow can give birth to five or six piglets each year.
At night, islanders are forced to use cars when they go out because the boars roam close to their homes. The two children on the island are driven to and from the local elementary school by their parents.
An increasing number of villages in Japan sell boar meat as a specialty, but most households on Kakara rely on fishing. “We cannot become hunters. . . . We have our hands tied,” said Toshiyuki Tokumura, a 66-year-old squid fisherman.