This summer for 2 weeks I took part in a university exchange with Hokkaido universities’ veterinary programme with two aims, to learn about veterinary practices in Japan and wildlife management. Along the way I also got to experience the wonderful, rich culture of this beautiful archipelago.
Initially I was quite worried about dealing with the different culture, my ability to communicate effectively and the jet lag. However these fears were quickly alleviated by the very helpful Japanese students, who helped me engross in Japanese Culture to the full; including their customs, cuisine, tradition and language. I even got to wear the national dress of Japan and visit a Shinto temple, both of which I found incredibly beautiful.
I took part in a conference with students and lecturers on wildlife medicine and management at Hokkaido University. This was an excellent opportunity for everyone to learn about not only Japanese wildlife issues but also international wildlife management issues such as squirrel leprosy in Scotland to White Nose syndrome of bats in North America. It was a very relaxed conference and allowed everyone to engage in discussing a large array of intellectually stimulating topics.
From the university to exploring the entire expanse of the Island of Hokkaido, we were taught about local Japanese conservation efforts. These spanned from Sika deer management through controlled farming, as they have had a massive impact on Japanese wildlife, to management of the bear-human conflict on the Shiretoko peninsula. Examples of managing this conflict were the elevated walk ways around the Goko lakes, to prevent interaction between humans and bears, and an electric fence around the village so that bears did not become habituated to humans.
One of the most amazing parts of the activities was seeing brown bears in the wild. This experience is something that will always be with me as seeing them in their natural environment was wonderful. It really gave me a sense of the importance of reducing our impact upon their environment, letting them be wild, so that human interaction does not endanger them.
Moreover I visited Asahiyma zoo and got to go behind the scenes with a vet. I learnt about zoo medicine in Japan and saw the operating facilities and array of equipment they had to use on the animals! To add to all these amazing things I also visited the Obhiro universities’ world class large animal veterinary facilities, the JRA race horse farm and the Hokkaido small animal hospital.
It’s very hard to express just how amazing this experience was and how much it has taught me in these past 2 weeks. I am eternally grateful to the Principal’s Go Abroad Fund for allowing me to take part in such an incredible experience on such a magnificent Island. I cannot thank this fund enough!
Kushiro Wildlife Foundation
Trying on the national dress
Group photo at Asahiyama zoo