When Japan’s last-known oriental white stork died in 1971, it was thought that the birds had disappeared forever.
The wetlands where the stork nested had been irrigated and development damaged its habitat. But, in a remarkable success story, the storks are thriving again after a reintroduction programme.
After more than three decades of supposed extinction, the first captive storks were released into the wild in 2005. By 2007, the first chick had hatched and, this year, another nine chicks arrived.
Japan was forced to do the unthinkable: it had to go back in time. Aggressive development had driven the birds to extinction, so the only option left was to attempt to return the ecosystem to its pre-1971 state.
To make this landscape hospitable again has meant going back to more traditional irrigation systems that allow rivers and ditches to flow into paddyfields. This creates pools of shallow, stagnant water that encourage the ecosystem that the birds can feed on.
Cutting pesticides and using more traditional cultivation methods has also helped make the wetlands less toxic.