Life in oceans, rivers and seas
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Life in oceans, rivers and seas
Japan has 50 Ramsar sites, many of these are in the Japanese wild of Hokkaido. Japan joined the Ramsar Convention in October 1980 with Kushiro-shitsugen being the first site in Japan. The environmental, educational and economic benefits of this development are obvious to all. Above: Andrea Hylands, Takayuki Musha (Deputy Chair) and Reiko Nakamura, Secretary General, Ramsar Centre Japan. Takayuki san and Reiko san are also renowned naturalist history writers.
Fresh from the horrors of Victoria’s (Australia) annual and immensely cruel slaughter of waterbirds on its Ramsar wetlands, in which children as young as twelve years old are encouraged to kill, we seek a more positive path for children and respect for the environment and nature.
“From all around the world we are hearing that children are becoming more and more disconnected from nature. I am so pleased and impressed that you have such a strong interest in the environment and in the wetlands.The secretariat is trying to do more with children who are knowledgeable and active and trying to inspire those who are not yet engaged” Dr Christopher Briggs, Secretary General, Ramsar Convention (January 2014)
It is early August and we are working in Hokkaido. Like Christopher Briggs we too have joy in our hearts as we drop in to the Kodomo Ramsar Forum (Children’s Ramsar Forum) being held at the Tsurui Village Town Hall, Kushiro Wetlands.
The Kushiro event, one of a long sequence of such events in Japan and beyond. The 80 participants at the event included the Ramsar site children (from 13 different Japanese Ramsar sites for this event), Youth Ramsar Japan volunteers and the supporting adults. The Ramsar site children were in primary grades 4 to 6.
The children are here to discuss the importance of preserving the wetlands, their environments and their natural history. This is a brave moment for many of the children as it is their first time away from home and family.
「君たちが大きくなって、多くを学び、賢くなるにつれ、自然は花びらのように繊細なものだということを知るに違いない。 君たちが自然の仲間になることで、君たちや未来の家族も持続可能となっていく。君たちの素晴らしい健闘を賛え、多くの人たちが保全や保護について君たちから学んでほしいと思う。我々が共有するこの美しい惑星、地球への思いやりと共に。」 ピーターとアンドレア・ハイランズ
This was the 30th Kodomo Ramsar event since 2006 and following COP9 (2005). By 1960 only 33 Japanese Cranes or Tancho remained and the local villagers decided that conservation efforts were required to save the cranes from extinction. Today there are around 1800 cranes in the Kushiro Wetlands and adjoining regions.
Why have these wetlands become so important to these very enthusiastic young conservationists? The answer is that in the waters of their wetlands they see their own futures reflected. The wetlands provide food in the form of rice and other crops, they provide habitat for the vast array of animals and plants that live there. They also filter and clean the water and the non-saline wetlands are a vital part of the ever diminishing supply of clean water for humans and animals alike.
We think of Hokkaido as the butterfly island, with, what seems to be, a vast number of butterfly species drifting by, as we walk the wetland trails.
So the wetlands also bring us the great joy of connecting with nature. The children clearly share our joy of these things.
In 2005 seven children from Japan, Korea, Malaysia and Thailand were invited to Kampala and Uganda’s COP9 to work with African children on ways in which children can participate in wetland conservation. The children wanted to take an active role in conservation measures. Here the children received a conservation award and this triggered a sequence of Kodomo Ramsar wetland events in Japan.
It was in Uganda that the Japanese children said:
“Please be careful, this is our future, it is about us”
Wondering how they could continue to participate in wetland conservation, the children then requested that meetings continue and raised the idea to bring together children from Ramsar sites from around Japan at special events, and thus the forums and events became reality. The children requested these gatherings because they wanted to exchange their ideas about how to protect the wetlands and their biodiversity for their own lifetimes and for future generations.
Some of the early participants in these Kodomo Ramsar forums have gone on to study ecology at university and will spend their lifetimes engaged in conservation activities. So it is here and today that we plant an important seed.
The children at the forum were asked to talk about the treasures that they found on their visit to the Kushiro wetlands. So back to Tsurui Village Town Hall and the Kushiro Wetlands. The children speak:
“In the Kushiro Wetlands there are Japanese Cranes and various other unique wildlife and they are all very important to us, we had the villagers to guide us to look at these things. On our walk we found many treasures of nature. The smiles of the people, the villagers working there were very happy and the way they were looking after their cows, which all looked so healthy, and they were really looking after them”
"The cranes were considered extinct but in this Kushiro area they were able to protect about twenty of them and then started to increase their number. These cranes are now important living assets".
"Our number one treasure was the crane, as they do not exist in the wetland from which we come. They only exist here, they are very important".
"A treasure is the heart (ability and passion) to be able to co-exist with nature for those who want to protect the wildlife they have the passion to really protect these animals. The animals and the insects, all of them are a treasure for us, on the trail we saw so much wildlife, which was very impressive. The whole wetland is a treasure, it is very much the base for the villagers as well as for the cranes".
“The events on Victoria’s (Australia) Ramsar wetlands are not only crimes against nature, they are also crimes against the child. The last thing the world needs is governments encouraging gun violence from children as young as twelve years old”. Peter and Andrea Hylands
Our message to the Japanese children of Kodomo Ramsar
“As you live and as you learn and become wise you will come to understand that nature is as delicate as the petals of a flower. You are also part of the natural world that will sustain you and your future families. We congratulate you on your work and we hope that many more will learn from you about conservation and caring for our beautiful planet earth which we all share” Peter and Andrea Hylands
..... and yes we did see a Japanese Crane.
Our warm thanks to Mari Yamada