In 7 months 17 rats of endangered species designated as natural monument accidentally killed

In 7 months 17 rats of endangered species designated as natural monument accidentally killed

In October 2009 a Ryukyu long-tailed giant rat runs out onto the road at night in Kunigami Village (photograph by Nozomi Murayama)

May 20, 2022 Ryukyu Shimpo

By Shugo Asato

Since the beginning of 2022, the occurrences of vehicles running over Ryukyu long-tailed giant rat (Diplothrix legata) has rapidly increased. The Ryukyu long-tailed giant rat is a nationally designated natural monument and an endangered species. The Yambaru Nature Conservation Office of the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) confirmed 10 incidents accounting for the death of 10 of these rats as of May 18. Since October 2021, which was an active breeding time for the rats, the Conservation Office has confirmed 17 incidents accounting for the death of 17 of these rats.

The Conservation Office is calling for drivers to avoid accidentally killing the Ryukyu long-tailed giant rats. A spokesperson for the Office said, “It’s possible that we could save [the rats] if [drivers] limited their speed and quickly reported an incident even after it has already occurred.”


Three Okinawa rails being cared for by the Okinawa Zoo and Museum for “distributed breeding”


The Ryukyu long-tailed giant rat is the largest species of rat in Japan, the adults having a body length of 20-30 cm and a tail length of 25-35 cm. The end of their tails being white is a characteristic of these rats. These rats are nocturnal and are an endangered species belonging to one genus, this species being endemic to and inhabiting only the World Natural Heritage Sites of the Northern part of Okinawa Island, and Amami-Oshima and Tokunoshima in Kagoshima Prefecture.

According to roadkill information publicized by the Nature Conservation Office, the number of incidents involving these rats between 2011 and 2021 was 92 (90 rats killed, 2 rats injured).

The year involving the most incidents was 2011 with 25 incidents (24 rats killed, 1 rat injured). No year thereafter involved more than 15 incidents.

The location where most of these incidents occurred is prefectural road 2 crossing east to west through the woods inhabited by the Ryukyu long-tailed giant rats. 70 of the incidents took place on this road, accounting for nearly 70 percent of the incidents.

The MOE, the Okinawa Prefectural Government, and the “Yambaru Nature Experience Activity Council”, which was established by Kunigami Village, Ogimi Village, and Higashi Village, have made magnetic stickers calling for roadkill prevention for the Ryukyu long-tailed giant rat. These magnetic stickers are being sold for 400 yen apiece, and the money is being set aside for nature conservation activities and the like, including roadkill prevention.

To report an incident or request assistance, call: MOE Yambaru Wildlife Conservation Center at (telephone) 0980 (50) 1025 (8:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.) or at (telephone) 090 (6862) 9170 (24-hour); or NPO Animal Hospital Okinawa at (telephone) 090 (6857) 8917 (24-hour).

(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)


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