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‘Yanbaru’ – Forests of the North

Ishikawa Frog

The diminutive Ishikawa Frog measures just a few centimetres in length, it calls ‘Yanbaru’ home and is currently listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of species status. Image © Shawn Miller

Okinawa is a verdant island in Southern Japan. Famous for its SCUBA Diving, white powder sand beaches and crystal clear waters. It also serves as home to an incredible array of lesser know wildlife tucked out of the way in the rolling green hills of the forested North. It seems everything we speak about these days, in the natural history sense, is threatened, endangered or precipitously close to extinction. Living in Japan I am, as many of you outside of the country probably are too, aware of the Snow Monkeys, Mount Fuji, Sea Eagles and Bears of Hokkaido as well as the Radioactive Wild Pigs of Fukushima, I kid ye not! But how many of you are familiar with critters such as the Kuroiwa Ground Gecko, Ishikawa’s Frog, Anderson’s Crocodile Newt or the Ryuku Black-Breasted Leaf Tortoise? Hmmm, not many eh? And yet, in the Southern confines of Japan, on the island of Okinawa there remains a region of dense and fertile rolling hills, devoid of mainstream development (for now) and which still yields an incredible array of endemic and some, sadly, endangered species. This region is known locally as the ‘Yanbaru’.

Roughly translated as “region of mountain ranges and rich forests” from the historical Kunigami dialect of Northern Okinawa the area known as ‘Yanbaru’ is a green and verdant jewel in the crown of Japanese natural history. A National Park encompassing a landmass of some 14,000ha of land and an additional 3700ha of Ocean has been motioned by the Japanese government in February of 2016. According to the World Wildlife Fund the area known as the ‘Yanbaru’ is home to some 4000 species comprising 11 mammals and 12 plant species endemic to the region. Some 177 of these species are classified as Threatened on the Red List of the Japanese Ministry of the Environment. Two of the regional species namely the Yanbaru Whiskered Bat and the Okinawan Woodpecker are listed as critically endangered.

Living pretty much on the doorstep of this resource I’m planning to head down to the region in order to try and document as much as I can over a two month period in order to start the creation of a species database for the region. Shooting both stills and 4k (UHD) video stock on a regime of 2 nights rough, one night in a cot will allow me to cover as much area as possible. If there is one thing certain in this day and age it is that we never really have any idea as to how long anything os going to last. Whilst the the extinction of Elephants for example is something none of us can really imagine it’s been suggested that at the current rate of poaching throughout Africa the Continents last elephants will disappear in about 15yrs time. As all of us adults know all too well, fifteen years zips by before you know it. It sounds distant now, but when that day comes, and it will if man doesn’t change, then what chance do we have to save what is probably one of the most iconic of terrestrial land animals to have ever graced our planet? We have to act now if we are to save the Elephants, as much as the Rhino’s, Tigers, Panda’s, Sharks and Kuroiwa Ground Gecko’s from the very verge of extinction.

Golden Habu

One of the few poisonous wildlife threats in the region. The Golden Habu, or Pit Viper, is as photogenic as it is dangerous. Bites can be excruciatingly painful and worse if the victim has an existing cardiac condition. Image © Shawn Miller

I am currently on the lookout for potential sponsors for the planned expedition. By sponsors I mean any professional entity within the realm of photographic or cinematographic manufacturing whether that be for camera bags, monitors, tripods or any other piece of gear that could be put through it’s paces on this trip. There is also the option for any private entity to also back the project if they are so moved and all details for that can be found on this project page. For commercial entities, I currently have the hardware needed to realise this project but should you be interested in supporting this in return for some pretty awesome exposure, daily periscope videos and copious amounts of image rich tweets and Instagram posts etc then please contact me for greater expansion on the potential exposure analytics for that.

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