Recently, Japan seems a lot like an Alfred Hitchcock movie. (No, not Psycho, but close.) Over the last twenty or so years, the crow population in Japan has simply exploded. They’re not quite pecking people to death, but they’ve nonetheless become an avian menace.
Why have there been so many crows recently? Most people chalk up the dramatic rise in crows as a result of the abundance of Japanese garbage. In the past couple of decades, Japan’s produced more garbage than ever before and crows, who treat garbage like an all-you-can-eat viking, have been slowly but surely catching on.
And, unfortunately, this explosion in the crow population hasn’t been peaceful or quiet. As one Tokyo bureaucrat put it:
In the old days, crows and humans could live together peacefully, but now the species are clashing
They’re bigger and meaner than their western counterparts, and haven’t been playing nice with others. Throughout Japan, these crows have attacked people, stolen food from children, plucked small animals out of Japanese zoos, caused power outages, and downed internet lines. They are a nuisance.
So what are the Japanese to do? They’ve been left no choice but to fight back.
Japan’s War Against Crows
After Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara was harassed by a crow while he was playing golf, he declared all-out war on crow-kind, a call that seems to have resonated throughout Japan. Tokyo has certainly undertaken Japan’s largest anti-crow efforts, but they are by no means the only ones.
Japan’s anti-crow efforts have taken many forms. Some people (mainly in rural areas) have used rifles and shotguns to gun down these black-feathered pests, but those in more urban areas have had to rely on the government to take care of their crow-killing needs.
Most government efforts include crow traps, in which crows are captured then gassed to death. But other anti-crow efforts have been more unconventional.
Take the Ginza Honeybee Project, an effort to drive away crows using bees. When bees catch sight of crows, they whip up into a frenzy and scare the crows away. The crows are left alive (for now), but they’re still driven away. Now you just need something to deal with the bees!
But maybe the most unique approach to warding off crows has been a teenaged falconer.
This week, the Japan blogging community has been enamored with a teenaged Japanese girl named Misato Ishibashi who raises and trains falcons, and it’s not hard to see why. She seems more like a character out of an anime than a real person.
Her falconing skills have been the latest weapon in the anti-crow arsenal. Ishibashi has been busy fighting crows in stadiums, auditoriums, and orchards and fields. (And, no doubt being swooned over by Japanese boys.)
Can the Crows Be Defeated? (No, Of Course Not)
Will Japan’s crusade against crows ultimately be successful? It’s difficult to say, because as hard as the Japanese are at eliminating the crow menace, crows are pulling out all stops too. Crows have built fake nests to mislead government employees bent on eradicating the pesky bird, outwitting humans and delaying their demise.
But no doubt, this battle between humans and crows will continue to be fought out across the country for years to come. Or maybe the clash between man and nature will end like Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds: suddenly and anti-climactically. Only time will tell.