Extinction Meets Technology: Japan Rolls Out Robot “Monster Wolves” To Deter Bears And Other Wildlife While Debate About Reintroducing Real Wolves Continues

“Robot Monster Wolves” may put you in mind of a 1950’s drive-in feature. But they exist and the purpose is to frten animals, not

Japan, the country that gave the world Godzilla (1955) Rodan (1956) and Monster Zero (1970) has actually created Robot Monster Wolves

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The wolves have been in service since 2016, They have grown in number since introduction. The beasts serve as robotic scarecrows and have been deployed to deter bears and other wildlife.

I would be scared too. Robot monster wolves feature LED eyes and a loud repertoire of growls and howls. A pair of them keep the bears at bay in Takikawa, Japan.

This is a response to changing demographics and ecosystems in the island nation. The extinction of wolves in 1905 removed the nation’s top predator. That extinction came about 50 years into Japanese industrialization. Since World War Two Japan has undergone even more urbanization. Villages have emptied as people moved into cities. This has eroded a traditional buffer between urban dwellers and Japan’s wildlife. Hunting has also decreased. As a result, deer, bear and wild boar are increasing in numbers and are conflicting with people. Some fatalities have been reported from bear conflicts. Deer, bear and wild boar can be on the menu for wolves. So the Japan Wolf Association hopes to bring them back.

wild boar walking in hayfield
Boar (Sus scrofa) overpopulation is a problem in much of the world. Photo by Dario Fernandez Ruz on Pexels.com Returning wolves. if not monster wolves to Japan might reduce numbers

Hunting has been the main control of wild animal populations. Hunting is perfectly legal in Japan, but heavily regulated. As we noted in another post it is strictly forbidden near temples. According to Nippon.com The number of hunters has fallen sharply. There were about 500,000 active hunters in 1980, less than half that today. Moreover, a little more than half are now over 60-years-old. Local and central government agencies are working to increase the number of licensed hunters. Narrowing the age gap is on the agenda too.

Godzilla (1954) was the film recounting of a fictional wildlife crisis involving a dinosaur-like monster that leveled Tokyo

The website said that hunters have shifted from targeting game birds to deer, bear and boar. The Japanese government wishes to halve the population of deer and boar. Deer, boar and bear are damaging crops and forest due to their overpopulation.

The nation is debating whether to reintroduce wolves, which may help solve some of the problem. Meantime the robot monster wolves are attempting to take up the slack.

The beasts were a joint project between Ohta Seiki, a manufacturing firm, Hokkaido University and the Tokyo University of Agriculture. Ohta Seiki began business in 1958 as a precision gear manufacturer. News reports say that about 70 of the beasts have been deployed since 2018. The firm had 68 employees in 2017. US News ranks Hokkaido University as number 432 on its list of global universities. Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology is also highly ranked.

On its website Ohta Seiki states its purpose in an imperfect English translation:

“To bring rich life to people, we would consistently be a hopeful company as ever in the world by attaining the growth of employees and the development of businesses with challenging spirits towards new technologies and continuous efforts.”

Bringing back real wolves is a challenge. There appears to be limited research about public opinion on the matter, According to a report quoted in Science Direct:

…In contrast to previous research, our survey revealed that it is not people‚Äôs propensity for wolves (i.e., whether they like or hate wolves), but their understanding of the ecological impact of reintroduced wolves, that influences their support. In summary, our findings suggest that public attitudes toward the reintroduction of wolves may become more favorable if people were informed of the scientific findings that Japanese and continental wolves are the same species and that their presence will positively impact the environment.”

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Published by ursusrising

long time writer and editor living in Los Angeles

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