Rewilding the Forest of Miracle: how different animals navigate the forest ecology of Yambaru, Okinawa

Authors: Sayaka Sakuma*,
Topics: Animal Geographies, Recreational and Sport Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: tourism, rewilding, species
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: 8228, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


As the US military agrees to return large swathes of Yambaru forestland, the Japanese government is promoting the area as a resource for tourism and heritage-making. In this presentation, I explore how different animals – forest workers, Yambaru Kuina (Okinawa Rail), mongoose, and beetles – navigate Yambaru’s changing forest ecology. The small forest area came to be known for its high concentration of endemic and endangered species. From this diversity of species, the Ministry of Environment officials sought to brand Yambaru as the “Forest of Miracle.” In the ongoing efforts toward designating the forest under the UNESCO World Natural Heritage, national and village governments facilitate conservation projects to bring a shiny brand for expanding ecotourism activities and revitalizing the rural economy. This presentation draws from participant observation and semi-structured interviews with forest workers such as forestry association workers and Mongoose Busters. Working through the concept of rewilding, I analyze how the ongoing international and national call for tourism as a tool for nature conservation discursively and materially shape experiences of species on the ground.

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