Partners information: Toyooka City in northern Hyogo Prefecture was recently selected by Green Destinations for their 2021 Top 100 Destination Sustainability Stories, an annual competition showcasing sustainable tourism stories and good practices from destinations around the world. These stories are shared as inspiring examples to others, and also serve to recognise and celebrate the efforts of the destinations.
The featured story was ‘How One City Brought Back Storks from Extinction by Restoring a Sustainable Environment’. Commonly known as kounotori in Japanese, the Oriental White Stork once lived in the wild in Japan but disappeared in 1971. Part of the reason they disappeared was due to the pesticides that were heavily used in farmlands across Japan.
Toyooka felt an enormous sense of guilt and responsibility for this massive ecological loss and set out to create an environment where both storks and people could happily coexist again. A breeding and research facility was soon established to begin breeding and raising them in captivity.
After 40 years full of challenges, the storks were successfully reintroduced into the wild in 2005, and there are now some 260 storks flying again in the sky of Japan.
These days, the farmers in the area use an environmentally friendly method for cultivating organic rice, which supports a clean ecology for the storks and other wildlife. The rice is even exported to 8 countries around the world, including Australia, and is served at some restaurants in Sydney.
The evaluators at Green Destinations commented:
‘This Good Practice Story is a real success because it shows the involvement of Toyooka City for a better coexistence between residents, visitors and the local endangered species. The project has been a major turning point for the conversation of stork in the whole country, it has saved the species and encouraged similar projects in other prefectures and cities, but also the quality of life got better for all.
‘This story symbolizes the key role that sustainability and environmental preservation play in Toyooka City. Indeed, the whole community participated in the change process and created a space where humans and storks can coexist peacefully and where economic development and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive.’
Toyooka City wants to share this story to inspire other cities and organizations and to show that it is possible to reintroduce an extinct species. Since 1994 the city has organised the ‘International Conference of the Oriental White Stork’s future - Keeping in Touch with Life, Community, and Heart’ to help connect people from around the world and discuss how humans can continue to coexist with nature now and into the future.
All images © Toyooka City