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  • Writer's pictureKasia Majewski

Big Project for the Littlest Oki Island: Behavioural Biology and Human-Wildlife Conflict on Chiburijima

Updated: Apr 5

The following is a blog post written by Marie Gamaz, a masters student from the University of Strasbourg who is working with us on the OkiTan Project on the invasive tanuki of Chiburijima, part of the Oki Dozen Archipelago in Shimane Prefecture, Japan. Hello, I am Marie Gamaz, one of the new interns at MacIntosh Lab since January 2024. I joined the OkiTan project as part of my master's degree in Ecology and Ethology at the University of Strasbourg. In this post I will share with you the latest news from the OkiTan project !

If you have never heard of this project, I suggest you read Kasia Majewksi's previous article 'A Tale of Two Islands: OkiTan Joins Yakutan'!

Indeed, you have probably already heard of the invasive tanuki on Yakushima. But perhaps you have heard less about those on Chiburijima, one of the Oki Islands?

Chiburijima is an island that lives mainly from beef farming and tourism. Since the 1950s, tanuki have invaded the island following the introduction of a pair, given as a gift to the mayor and inadvertently released into the wild. The consequences of their introduction on biodiversity and the daily lives of the people living on the island are still poorly understood.

A view of Nibu, one of the islands districts.

One of Chiburijima's beautiful views.

That is why the OkiTan project was born! Our aim is to find out how tanuki behave in this particular insular and agricultural environment, and how they impact on the daily lives of local people.

Firstly, through direct observation, we aim to find out not only how tanuki behave in general, but also when they are active and whether this correlates with farm activities. The expected results will pave the way for new discoveries about the behavior of tanuki, a species known to be normally nocturnal and discreet.

One of the many tanuki to be found on Chiburijima.

These observations are also complemented by the use of camera-traps in places where other species may interact with tanuki, such as feeding grounds and latrines!

Installation of a camera in front of a latrine.

A tanuki spotted by a camera trap.

Speaking of latrines... A collaborative project is about to be launched on the island! Indeed, tanukis are a species that form latrines (like common toilets) to defecate or urinate. These can contain a number of parasites and can be formed anywhere: in the forest, on roads, but also directly in people's gardens! This is why a project in which the citizens of Chiburijima would help to point out the latrines they know about could be beneficial not only to our study, but also to the citizens of Chiburijima in the long term. In fact, taking an inventory of these latrines is a first step towards measuring the impact of tanukis on the island and, ultimately, finding solutions for citizens.

Kasia Majewski's proposed flyer for the community outreach latrine project - project is in development for 2024.

Of course, both positive and negative relationships surely exist between tanuki and the people of Chiburjima, which is why an in-depth investigation will be carried out to determine the reality of daily life with tanuki for the citizens of Chiburijima. What do they bring? Are they a source of conflict or benefit for those living and working on the island? Which are they?

Thanks to a questionnaire and the participation of Chiburijima's citizens in it, we will be able to get a clear answer to all these questions, and together we will be able to look for future measures to benefit the citizens.

There are many projects awaiting us on this island. What is the tanuki's real activity? Particularly in island and agricultural environments? Will we be able to find all the latrines on Chiburijima? What impact do they have? How do people relate to tanuki? What problems or benefits do they derive from tanukis? We will do our best to answer all these exciting questions! There is so much to discover!

All these questions form the basis of the OkiTan project, which could also be a point of comparison with the Yakutan on Yakushima project!

In short, a very big program for the smallest of the Oki islands!

See you soon for more news on the project! 

Marie Gamaz

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