Hokkaido University Exchange, Japan

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This Summer, I went to Hokkaido, Japan with 9 others from R(D)SVS as an exchange with Hokkaido University. Hokkaido University has given us an opportunity to visit their school and learn about the problems they are facing in wildlife management in Hokkaido. I have a great interest in exotics, zoo and wildlife management, and so when the opportunity arose, I applied immediately to go on this trip with the vet school.

It takes me a lot of effort to speak to other people and get to know them more, and I was afraid that I would not be able to become friends with the Hokkaido students that travelled with us in the two weeks. This fear increased knowing that a language barrier existed between them and us. However, as the trip progressed, we ended up being very good friends with them, and got to know them as much as we could over the two weeks. I was also afraid that I would not budget my money well, so I set myself a limit per day, and ended up being under my budget.

We visited both Hokkaido University and Obihiro University. Both universities have a vet school. Hokkaido University in Sapporo has great facilities for their small animal patients – similarly, Obihiro University has the same but for large animal patients. The universities cooperate with each other to provide a well-rounded education for their students.

At Shiretoko peninsula, we learnt about bear and deer management, as well as the conservation of species such as the Steller’s sea eagle. We had the chance to observe the wild bears from afar, as well as watch licenced hunters shoot deer to control the deer population.

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We learnt about the operation of the salmon industry as well as the fishery’s relationship with seals at Cape Erimo. Unfortunately, the winds were too strong for us to kayak out and see the seals, but we still learnt a lot about the struggle to strike a balance between conserving the seals and reducing damage to the salmon caused by the seals.

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At Kushiro, we were taught about their efforts to conserve the wild birds around the area as well as visit their enclosure. It was very interesting to see the innovative changes they made to increase nesting and decrease death rates. I also was thrilled to have the opportunity to see these rare birds close up.

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We also went to multiple zoos and Japan’s largest racing horse breeding centre. It was eye opening to be able to see and compare their systems to other systems in the world as well as their views on management of these animals.

There were multiple typhoons on our trip to Hokkaido and unfortunately some of our activities had to be cancelled. We still had a very enjoyable and educational time at Hokkaido, and I am incredibly thankful to both Hokkaido University and Edinburgh University for giving me the opportunity to visit and learn about both Japan’ s culture and their wildlife.

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