Japanese Rabbit Island’s Dark Past

Rabbits are in control of a specific island where are fed correctly, safe from predators, and spend their days relaxing as humans take adoring pictures with them. And where is this perfect world for bunnies?

Rabbit island

Okunoshima, a little island in the Seto Inland Sea, is located two miles from the shore of Takehara, a city in the Hiroshima Prefecture of Japan. The name Usagi Jima, which translates to “Rabbit Island,” is now the term that people most frequently use to refer to it because of the many stray rabbits that inhabit the area.

How all these rabbits ended up on a little island with a history of producing tons of toxic gas for the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II is a mystery that has led to the island’s removal from all Japanese maps. The New York Times reports that during the war in China in the 1930s and 1940s poison (mustard gas, phosgene, and other varieties) was employed against Chinese troops and civilians. Killing, based on some estimates, around 80,000 people.


Some speculate that the island’s sad past may be the cause of why bunnies now reside there. According to The Guardian, when the army started producing chemical weapons in 1929, rabbits were sent to the island to test the potency of the poison gas. Eventually, this led to the idea that employees may have let the confined animals loose on the island after the war. However, the majority of specialists dispute this narrative of what happened.

Ellis Krauss is a professor of Japanese politics associated with the University of California San Diego. In 2014, he said in an interview with the website-The Dodo that the native rabbits were exterminated after the war. The test rabbits were all put to death by the Americans when they arrived on the island during the Occupation, the Japanese were using roughly 200 of the pitiful animals in their studies, according to Krauss.

Where did these rabbits come from if they weren’t descended from the test bunnies? A group of schoolchildren may have released about eight bunnies in 1971. These swiftly reproducing mammals may have grown (as they are renowned for doing) to their current population of roughly 1,000 individuals. There’s no need to be concerned about the predators as cats, dogs, and hunting are strictly prohibited.


A negative side effect of Rabbit Island’s recent surge in popularity might exist. Researchers interviewed by takepart.com said that because of all the tourists feeding the stray rabbits, the island’s ecosystem has been ruined by an uncontrollable population increase. Similar problems with the bunnies’ health are caused by what and when they are fed, which is why they only live for two years. They are frequently given cabbage, which is not the ideal option because it can make bunnies bloaty and is deficient in fiber, which the animals require in large amounts to keep healthy.

Rabbits being fed by tourists

Rabbits need a regular supply of food. But, when there are no tourists around, they do not have anything to eat. The boom-and-bust cycle of receiving a lot on sunny days and nothing on rainy days made the situation worse.

Source: Smithsonian

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