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From Fox Village to Pig Beach: Places That Animals Have Captured


Alexandra Savina

It’s hard to believe, but there are still places on earth where animals are much more numerous than people. Some of them were created artificially to protect animals, and somewhere animals occupied the territory on their own. We talk about an island inhabited by rabbits, a temple with rats, a beach owned by pigs, and other places where you can get to know our smaller brothers better.

Fox Village in Miyagi Prefecture

Dzao Fox Village was founded in 1990. The reserve is located near the Japanese city of Shiroishi; more than a hundred animals live here: foxes of six different species (mostly red, although there are, for example, black-brown ones), as well as other animals – rabbits and goats. Many of them are not afraid to approach people, so visitors can feed them special food if they wish. In general, you should be on the lookout: foxes strive to take away everything that is badly lying, and chew the bags of visitors. In addition, the administration of the reserve warns that animals can bite (albeit extremely rarely) – so you should be careful if you are going to go there with children.

Big Major Reef, where pigs live

The beach of the uninhabited Big Major reef in the Bahamas has been nicknamed “piggy”. About two dozen feral domestic pigs live here, which are not at all afraid of people and can even jump into a boat to tourists. There are different versions of how the pigs ended up on the island: some say that the animals made it to the shore after the shipwreck, others that they were brought here by sailors who sailed past, who wanted to come back for them later and eat them. Fortunately, now no one even thinks of biting them: now the island has been chosen by travelers – for example, Amy Schumer came here last year.

Cat Islands in Japan

There are several islands in Japan where there are more cats than people. The most famous of them are Aoshima, where there are six cats for every inhabitant, and Tashiro. In the past, fishermen kept cats on the islands to kill mice that ate silkworms (silk was needed to make fishing nets) and allowed them to breed without hindrance. In the fifties of the last century, there were about a thousand inhabitants on Tashiro, and now there are about a hundred of them, so the main population of the island is cats. The residents of Tashiro are not allowed to have dogs, and a veterinarian visits the island periodically to make sure the animals are healthy and happy.

Penguins in the Falkland Islands

Only about three thousand people live on the Falkland Islands – but about a million penguins of five different species live here. The birds had a hard time for many years: three hundred years ago there were about ten million of them, but they were seriously affected by the extraction of whale oil, and then due to the Falklands War between Britain and Argentina and fishing on the island – the penguins did not have enough food for a decade their population dropped from six million to one.

The Falklands War, however, helped the birds in an unusual way. During the hostilities, Argentine troops planted mines on the coasts and pastures, not far from the capital of the islands. Not a single person has suffered from mines (now there are about twenty thousand of them on the islands), but the fenced area has become practically a reserve for penguins: due to their low weight, birds can walk on the ground without being blown up by mines where they cannot walk people.

Okunoshima Rabbit Island

Japan is famous not only for its feline settlements, but also for its rabbit island. On Okunoshima, there are many wild rabbits that are not at all afraid of people and willingly approach tourists. There are several theories as to why there are so many of these animals on the island. The main one is very gloomy: in 1929-1946, the Japanese army secretly tested chemical weapons on Okunoshima (there are abandoned bases on the island even now) – the island was chosen because of its favorable location, since it was far from civilians. The rabbits were brought to the island to be tested for the action of poisonous gases. Another theory is more peaceful: according to it, schoolchildren in the 70s of the last century brought eight rabbits to the island – they multiplied until their population reached unprecedented proportions.

Elephant seals in California

The easiest way to see elephant seals up close is to visit the Año Nuevo Sanctuary in California: animals come ashore to mate and annually thousands of babies are born here. Safety requirements prohibit approaching elephants closer than seven meters – but they look impressive anyway: males can reach four meters in length and weigh about two tons. During the mating season, from December 15 to March 31, you can see elephant seals only with a guided tour led by the park staff – the rest of the time you can look at them yourself.

Snake Island in Brazil

Unlike other items on this list, Queimada Grande Island, near Brazil, is not visited by tourists. It is called “Snake Island”: about four thousand snakes live here – on average, one for every five square meters. These highly venomous island botrops are responsible for 90% of all snakebite deaths in Brazil (not surprising if they all occur on Queimada Grande itself). The snakes feed on migratory birds, which briefly stop on the island to rest. The authorities forbid visiting Keymada Grande – it is definitely better to admire them from afar.

Temple with rats in India

For some, not the most pleasant item on this list is the Indian temple of Karni Mata, where thousands of rats live. Two legends are associated with the temple: according to one of them, twenty thousand soldiers left the battlefield and hid in the temple of the Hindu saint Karni Mata – they survived, but because of their cowardly act they turned into rats. According to another, more popular version, Karni Mata’s stepson drowned in the lake. She begged the deity of death to resurrect the boy, and he agreed to reincarnate him, and then all the male descendants of Karni Mata into rats. Now the animals are looked after by numerous descendants of Karni Mata – the Depavat family. It is believed that the water that rats drink is holy, and those who eat up the leftovers after them will be lucky. If one of them is accidentally killed, a silver or gold figurine takes its place in the temple.

Wallaby on an Irish island

It’s hard to believe, but on the small Irish island of Lumbay live wallabies – mammals from the kangaroo family that live in Australia … Wallaby appeared on the island in the middle of the last century: the rich Irish family Baring, who owned the island, tried to breed exotic animals here – but only wallaby took root. In the mid-80s, there were even more animals on the island. At Dublin Zoo, the population of this species grew dramatically, and the park could no longer accommodate everyone. The director of the zoo was looking for a wallaby for a new home and turned to the Baring family – as a result, seven more animals appeared on the island. Now about fifty animals live here – about ten times more than people. They, like elephant seals, should also be approached only at your own peril and risk – unless, of course, you are a young Pope.

Horses in an abandoned city in Namibia

Kolmanskop is a sign city in Namibia, located in the Namib Desert. Once there were mined diamonds, but now it is abandoned: the last settlers left it in the middle of the last century, when they discovered more convenient diamond deposits. Now the only inhabitants of the city and the desert next to it are horses, who are attracted by the water source located here. How exactly horses appeared in Namibia is unknown – according to the most popular version, they were left here by the military during the First World War. Over time, the animals adapted to the desert climate and learned to do without water longer than normal horses.