All of Iriomote Island to become national park
Japan’s Ministry of Environment decided Tuesday to expand the area of Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park at the southern edge of the prefecture to cover whole Iriomote Island.
According to officials at the ministry, an official announcement of the plan will be published in the official gazette in March the earliest.
The special protection zone on the island, where strict rules ban collection of plants and animals, will be increased from the current 1,800 hectares to 4,600 hectares, when the expansion of the area becomes official.
Iriomote is home to several rare and endangered species, including Iriomote wildcat. The island is often described as the last wilderness in Japan. The Iriomote wildcat is designated as a special natural treasure and to protect its habitat, half of the island will also be classified as a Class 1 special zone where construction of buildings is in principle prohibited.
Iriomote Island is a part of wider area consisting of the Amami and Ryukyu islands that the Japanese government wants to have registered as UNESCO World Heritage sites for natural assets in 2018. UNESCO has requested the Japanese government to reinforce conservation of the environment in the area as a precondition for the listing.