In some parts of the world, critters reign supreme and can even outnumber the local human population. Here’s a look at some amazing animal islands around Asia Pacific and the animal populations that call them home.
Cat Island: Aoshima, Japan
Japan actually has a dozen or so cat islands scattered around the country, but Ehime’s Aoshima Island in the Seto Inland Sea is one of the most well-known. The cats were first introduced to the island by fishermen who had a rodent problem in the early 1900s. While the ageing population on the island has dropped to less than 20 permanent residents today, the cat population has boomed to over a hundred that roam around freely.
The cats are looked after by the local community and you can make a cash or cat food donation on the ferry ride over to help support the upkeep of the cats. Aoshima is a residential community without any stores and hotels and is not a place you can stay overnight.
Rabbit Island: Okunoshima, Japan
Located in the Seto Inland sea between Hiroshima and Fukushima is another famous animal island. Okunoshima is home to hundreds of fluffy feral rabbits, a population that has boomed due to an increase in the island’s visitorship and feeding in recent years. No one is quite sure how the rabbits got to the island – they could be descendants of poison gas test subjects during World War II or spawn of domestic pets that were released on the island, but one sure thing is that they’ve multiplied rapidly (as rabbits do) and taken over this little island today.
More information about Rabbit Island can be found here, including tips on rabbit welfare such as keeping their water pans filled and watching out for the fluffy critters under cars and on the road.
Komodo Dragon Island: Pulau Komodo and Pulau Rinca, Indonesia
Komodo dragons are the world’s largest lizards, and these endangered reptiles can only be found on the Indonesian islands of Pulau Komodo and Pulau Rinca in Flores, East Nusa Tenggara. These islands are protected areas in the larger Komodo National Park and are a popular day trip from nearby Labuan Bajo.
You can only walk around these islands with a certified nature guide – make sure to stay close and listen to their warnings. While these Komodo dragons look like they are just lazing around, they move like lightning over short bursts and have a very keen sense of smell for fresh blood. They have been known to attack and eat deer and humans, and even if you do evade them, their saliva is pretty lethal as well.
Quokka Island: Rottnest Island, Australia
Rottnest Island off the coast of Perth in Western Australia is teeming with wildlife and natural beauty including some great coral reefs and salt lakes, but it is the cute Quokkas that draw many people to visit this tiny island. These smiley-looking marsupials are often called the world’s happiest animals and are generally quite friendly, obliging many visitors cycling and exploring the island with #quokkaselfies.
Make sure to follow the Quokka interaction rules and spend more time observing the Quokkas rather than just taking your selfie. You can also support the upkeep of the Quokkas through the purchase of Quokka soft toys at the island’s gift shop.
Crab Island: Christmas Island, Australia
At the beginning of the rainy season around September and October, Christmas Island plays host to the great Christmas Crab migration, which sees 40-50 million bright red crabs scuttle across the island towards the coast where they can breed and spawn their eggs. This natural phenomenon happens every year and sees crabs cover beaches, roads and any available surface like a moving scarlet carpet.
Human traffic is the biggest threat to migrating crabs that can get crushed as the crabs are quite indiscriminate about where they go. Be on the lookout for crabs when out and about, and note that certain roads are closed during the migration to help protect them. Read more about the Christmas Crabs migration to know more about what to expect.
How to visit animal islands ethically
Want to check out these animal islands for yourself? Here are some things you should take note before you add them to your itinerary.
Know the rules
Check whether these islands are protected and whether you are allowed to visit them in the first place. Don’t insist on visiting if you are not permitted. If visitors are welcome, make sure to follow the rules set by the authorities in charge, but in general, you should avoid feeding and touching the animals – especially the wild ones – to ensure their best welfare.
No matter how cute or cuddly these animals might seem, remember that they are wild animals who can easily read your friendly overtures as threats. Observe the animals from a safe distance to avoid harassing them and also to prevent any potential injury to both you and the animal.
Animals are not props
You may want to get that perfect NatGeo-esque shot of the animal in the wild, but make sure you don’t break any laws or harass the animal for the sake of a good picture. Do not manipulate animals into the perfect shot by moving them or feeding them. If you see other people doing it, speak up and remind them not to do so.