Petition to make Dugongs the prefectural animal for Okinawa

Petition to make Dugongs the prefectural animal for Okinawa

Misako Kojya (second from the right) and others announcing that they have started a petition on June 6 at the prefectural office

June 7, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo

On June 6, a petition to the Okinawa Prefectural Government (OPG) was started in hopes of making Dugongs the prefectural animal for Okinawa. The petition is organized by seven people, including singers Tokiko Kato and Misako Kojya. The organizers hope to collect signatures in the tens of thousands within this year and will appeal to the OPG to make Dugongs the prefectural animal for Okinawa. They also plan to request the prefectural assembly to establish protection laws for Dugongs, including designating October 5 as Dugong Day, which is a play on words in Japanese. Representing the group, Kojya said, “Dugongs are a precious treasure, which [our] future generations should be able to see and enjoy. [We] hope to gain many people’s support.”

Besides Kato and Kojya, the organizers of the petition include: marine mammal scientist and Professor Ellen Hines from San Francisco State University, biology Professor Mitsuru Moriguchi from Okinawa University, picture book authors Seizo Tashima and Shoumei You, and underwater photographer Kensuke Yokoi. Going forward, the organizers hope to collect a wide variety of petitions from in and outside of the country using the internet. They hope to create English and Korean versions of their petition.

Kojya held a press conference at the prefectural office on June 6. With the shore protection works underway for the new Henoko base construction in Oura Bay of Nago City in mind, she said, “There are few feeding grounds for Dugongs. There is [only] one ocean, so [we] don’t want [them] to reclaim any more land from the sea.” Professor Moriguchi said, “Dugongs were once familiar animals to Okinawa people. (Through protecting Dugongs) [we] should re-appreciate interacting with nature.”

If you would like to take part in the petition, please call Masako Suzuki at 090-8032-2564.

(English translation by T&CT and Chelsea Ashimine)

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