Category: Ogasawara Island.

Ogasawara island chain named as World Heritage site

Minamizaki in Haha-jima, which is home to the last breeding ground for seabirds among inhabited islands in the Ogasawara chain. (Photo courtesy of the Ogasawara Municipal Government)

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Japan’s Ogasawara island chain, a habitat for rare animals and plants in the western Pacific, was named Friday by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, Japanese government officials said.

 

The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s World Heritage Committee authorized the registration of the group of about 30 islands, about 1,000 kilometers south of Tokyo, which is a home to many indigenous species as it has never been connected to a continent.

To be registered in the list are a total of 6,360 hectares of land including the Mukojima, Chichijima and Hahajima archipelagoes plus Kitaiwoto and Minamiiwoto islands and a combined 1,580 hectares of water areas around those islets.

The Ogasawara island chain, a popular destination for ecotourism, is dubbed the “Galapagos in the Orient” for its rich and distinctive natural assets such as the Bonin flying fox, an endangered species of bat.

With a population of about 2,400, the Ogasawara islet chain belongs to Tokyo and is administered by the village government of Ogasawara. The island chain group was once under U.S. occupation after World War II but was returned to Japan in 1968.

Ogasawara becomes Japan’s fourth natural heritage site, following Yakushima Island off southern Kyushu, the Shirakami-Sanchi mountains in northern Honshu and the Shiretoko Peninsula in eastern Hokkaido and its nearby waters.

During the ongoing June 19-29 session in Paris, the committee is also expected to register the historic Hiraizumi area in Iwate Prefecture, northeastern Japan, as a cultural World Heritage site.

In May, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, a UNESCO advisory body, recommended that the Ogasawara islet group be inscribed to the World Heritage List, saying the islets’ ecological system has cleared the criteria.

The IUCN has urged Japan to take sustainable action to wipe out the impact from alien species, such as goats and cats brought from the outside into the islands, and also to tighten controls to maintain the islets’ natural environment that might be affected by a possible increase in the number of tourists.

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Category: Ogasawara Island