A Japanese island infested with countless rabbits has become a tourist hotspot, much to the detriment of the local inhabitants.
Okunoshima, commonly known as Rabbit Island, is just near Hiroshima. It was used as a poison gas weapons testing site in the early 20th century. More recently, it attracts elderly Japanese tourists to its hot springs. School children also visit the island, which can be walked in just 90 minutes, to visit a museum about the weapons.Not many people live on the island, but there is a hotel for tourists.
In 2014, one tourist blew the lid on the island by uploading a video of herself being swarmed by dozens of rabbits. The video was so popular, tourism to the island almost doubled in just one year.
House Rabbit Society president Margo DeMello told National Geographic it is a "recent phenomenon". "What you have is too many rabbits for such a small island," DeMello said. "They're totally friendly – almost aggressively so – because they need the people to feed them. They're the most active during the times when people are on the island."
Unfortunately for the rabbits, the tourists are feeding them a poisonous diet. Instead of supplying seeds, leaves, roots and wood, people are feeding the rabbits vegetables such as carrots, lettuce and cabbage. Rabbit digestive systems fail to break down the food and rely on more of a high-fibre diet.
Signs have been placed around the island to warn tourists, but the rabbits also rely on them as a food source. If tourists stopped providing food altogether, the rabbits would likely starve to death in winter. DeMello said the rabbits have upper respiratory infections and digestive problems because of contact with humans.
"As a population, I think they're doing fine. Individuals, I think, are doing not-so-fine."
Most of the rabbits on the island hover around the hotel because it is their best chance to be fed.