Amazing Places

One Small Japanese Island Is Hoppin' With Friendly Rabbits

How would you like to be dropped off on a remote island in the Pacific that's overrun with wild animals? Sounds a little like Survivor. That is, unless you're talking about Ōkunoshima, in which case you're about to make a lot of new rabbit friends. Score!

Don't Come Any Closer

If you've ever come across a rabbit in the wild, you probably didn't get too close before it swiftly darted away. And that makes sense: the only defense bunnies have against impending predators is to run as fast as their little legs will take them. Rabbits are constantly on the lookout for looming danger—usually. The rabbits on the rabbit-overrun island of Ōkunoshima, however, behave completely differently. Although they are wild, these rabbits don't hesitate to rush up to visitors to this bit of land in the Inland Sea of Japan. Thus its nickname Usagi Jima, which translates to Rabbit Island. Sounds a little too good to be true, right?

Rabbit looking into camera on Ōkunoshima island.

Now's Our Chance!

Let us explain. Ōkunoshima isn't naturally a wildlife utopia where the combined conditions create the perfect breeding grounds for so. many. rabbits. According to legend, the island has surprisingly dark roots. Beginning in 1929, the story goes, the Japanese Imperial Army used the island as a secret production site for poisonous gas. The bunnies, sadly, were brought to the island as unfortunate test subjects. Legend has it, some captive bunnies escaped the facilities before getting euthanized at the end of World War II.

Ellis Krauss, professor of Japanese politics at the University of California San Diego, told The Dodo that it probably didn't go down like this. Instead, she speculates that tourists and school kids brought rabbits to the island to increase the tourist appeal. From there, the rabbits did, well, what rabbits do, and the population rose to about 1,000. It's not all sunshine, rainbows, and cottontails, though. Bunnies need a steady supply of nourishment. When the weather is nasty and the tourists aren't galavanting around with open palms of rabbit snacks, these animals aren't getting what they need. (They've long since ravaged the vegetation for sustenance.) So, let this be a lesson: 1. Don't test chemical weapons on bunnies. 2. Don't start your own random bunny colony on a remote island. 3. If you do go to Rabbit Island, please bring extra food.

Watch And Learn: Fascinating Content About Unique Islands

Welcome to Rabbit Island

Key Facts In This Video

  1. Wild rabbits have no defenses against predators except the ability to run fast. 00:28

  2. The Japanese island Ōkunoshima was used to make poison gas during WWII in secrecy. 01:35

  3. The rabbits on the Japanese island Ōkunoshima have no predators anywhere on the island. 02:39

Written by Curiosity Staff May 23, 2017

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