What’s The World Heritage?
The World Heritage refers to sites recognized by UNESCO for their exceptional value to humanity. They are divided into natural and cultural heritage. Natural sites preserve outstanding landscapes and biodiversity, while cultural sites include monuments and historic places with universal significance. The designation emphasizes global commitment to their protection.
Amami Oshima is a Natural World Heritage Site
Amami Oshima, along with Tokunoshima, the northern part of Okinawa Island, and Iriomote Island, was designated as a UNESCO Natural World Heritage site in 2021. It is the fifth site to receive this designation in Japan, and it is considered the last one to be designated as a Natural Heritage site within the country. The reason for the designation is its biodiversity. Having evolved after being connected to the continent in ancient times, the island preserves species that have become extinct on the continent and showcases the adaptation and evolution of flora and fauna to the island environment. Preserving the genetic diversity of these species for the future is a significant aspect of its designation as a World Heritage site.
Where is the World Heritage Site in Amami Oshima?
The World Heritage site on Amami Oshima is entirely covered by forest, constituting approximately 16% of the island’s total area. The primary means of transportation to the World Heritage area is by car, but navigating Amami Oshima’s forest roads can be complex, making self-guided trips somewhat risky. We offer tours to the most crucial area for World Heritage registration, Mt. Yuwandake, so please check it out.
Representative Flora and Fauna of Amami Oshima
I will introduce representative and rare flora and fauna found on Amami Oshima.
The Amami rabbit, known as a “living fossil” existing for about 300 years, inhabits both Amami Oshima and Tokunoshima. They have maintained almost the same appearance since ancient times and continue to survive to this day. As they are nocturnal, encountering them is possible during wildlife tours.
Amami Ishimawa’s frog
The Amami Ishikawa’s frog is known as Japan’s most beautiful frog and is found exclusively on Amami Oshima. Its distinctive features include a vibrant green body with black and golden dots. The reason for its reputation as beautiful is also attributed to its unique vocalizations, producing surprisingly high-pitched sounds that one might not associate with a typical frog.
Amami White-backed Woodpecker
As you walk through the forest, you may hear the sound of a woodpecker tapping on the trees. It could be the Amami white-backed woodpecker, digging nest holes in the wood or searching for insects inside. The males, with their beautiful redheads, are popular among bird watchers.
While there are relatively few conspicuous flowers among the plants on Amami Oshima, Tokusa orchid stands out with its beautiful yellow blooms. You may come across this plant while trekking in the mountains.
Crane Top Orchid
The name of this plant was given because its flowers resemble cranes bowing their heads. It is a large plant, reaching a total length of about 1 meter, and produces numerous flowers in May.
Miyabi Wild Ginger
Miyabi wild ginger is a unique plant that relies on ants to carry its seeds and expand its habitat. Consequently, it is said to take 100 years to extend its range by one meter. This plant is endemic to Amami Oshima.
Preserving for the Future
In addition to the plants introduced here, Amami Oshima is home to many rare species. Some of them are on the verge of extinction, with only a few individuals remaining. With the designation as a World Heritage site, we have a responsibility to preserve these plants for the future.