The Return of the Stork.

According to Yuzo Suwa’s article, “When storks arrive, you’re growing good rice, Hyogo farmers discover”, environmentally-friendly practices implemented by a group of farmers in Toyooka, Hyogo Prefecture, has increased numbers of a previously extinct bird species, namely the Oriental white stork. After doing some background research to understand why these storks were extinct in the first place, I found out that it was in fact, the Japanese introduction of modern high-yield rice farming techniques – altering natural drainage systems and using agricultural pesticides and other toxic chemicals – that led to the wipeout of these majestic birds in 1971. Although Suwa did mention how “Japan’s postwar agriculture placed high priority on crop yields by encouraging the use of chemicals, fertilizers and the off-season drying of paddies”, this particular article didn’t quite clearly state that it was because of this, did the birds die in the first place. So how highly praised should this reintroduction program be anyways? I mean, after all, wasn’t it the lack of environmental sensitivity that led to the extinction of these stunning creatures in the first place?

Regardless, this article focuses on the benefits of these green, chemical-free rice paddies for these Oriental white storks. Japan is portrayed as a country that puts emphasis and value on wildlife and environmental restoration. But is that their main objective? Suwa also mentions the benefits of the stork individuals on eco-tourism, as the reintroduction of these birds have drawn in tourists into the area. This improves the villagers living standards by selling touristy knick-knacks and other merchandise. Not a bad side benefit….  It brings in some profit, and boosts the Japan’s “green” label too.

Coming from a biologist’s perspective, some of the questions that pop up when I read this include issues of inbreeding and the ability for this small area of chemical-free rice paddies to sustain the Oriental white storks’ population in the long-term. If this city farming project is successful, as the article says to be, what size of restoration area is needed to increase the bird’s population to its original numbers, and is Japan willing to convert more rice paddies despite major cuts in output? Food for thought.

Image from:

Main article reference:

Suwa, Yuzo. “When storks arrive, you’re growing good rice, Hyogo farmers discover.” The Japan Times. 15 Aug. 2014. Web.

Accessed on 24 August 2014 from

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