All the curiosities about the Japanese serow



by LORENZO CIOTTI

All the curiosities about the Japanese serow

The Japanese serow is a species that is endemic to Japan and precisely to three of its main islands: Honshū, Shikoku and Kyūshū. Su Honshu, in the most suitable areas for it, is widespread in large numbers, but is absent in the cultivated areas of the plains and in those close to human settlements.

On Shikoku and Kyushu its distribution is more limited. Before the early 20th century, it disappeared from western regions of Honshu and greatly declined in number elsewhere. Since the 1960s, however, its range has been expanding again.

Its coat, very thick, especially on the tail, is mottled brown on the back and black and white on the underparts. In both sexes there are small 10 cm horns, curved backwards. The serow of Japan live in the dense forests of hilly regions, where they feed on leaves and acorns.

They are diurnal creatures that forage for food in the morning and evening, spending the rest of the day resting in the shelter of rock faces. Mostly solitary, they also meet in pairs, sometimes accompanied by young. Generally they occupy small territories, of about 20 km² per specimen and up to 200 km² for the most numerous herds.

The IUCN Red List classified Japanese serow as Least Concern in 2008, as it has a wide distribution in Japan and a large, stable or increasing population. The Cultural Property Protection Act and the Wildlife Protection and Hunting Act provide for the legal management of Japanese serow.

In 1979, the Cultural Affairs Agency, the Environment Agency and the Forestry Agency reached an agreement on serow management measures, such as the establishment of protection areas and culling as a control of parasites. The measures have met resistance from conservationists, wildlife organizations and some biologists, as the animal had previously been fully protected.

A 1999 amendment to the Wildlife Protection and Hunting Act allowed prefectures to manage wildlife populations. By 2007, seven plans for seed management outside conservation areas had been established. The serow of Japan live in the dense forests of hilly regions, where they feed on leaves and acorns.

They are diurnal creatures that forage for food in the morning and evening, spending the rest of the day resting in the shelter of rock faces. Mostly solitary, they also meet in pairs, sometimes accompanied by young people.

Usually they occupy small territories, of about 20 km² per specimen and up to 200 km² for the most numerous herds. These territories are marked by a vinegar-like substance secreted by the preorbital glands located just in front of the eyes.