Four islands in southwestern Japan have just been added to the Unesco World Heritage list as of July 26. Collectively, the northern part of Okinawa island and Okinawa prefecture’s Iriomote island, as well as Kagoshima’s Amami-Oshima island and Tokunoshima island make Japan’s fifth Unesco natural heritage site. This means Japan now has a total of 24 Unesco World Heritage Sites.
The string of islands was recommended for its diverse ecosystem of plant and animal species that are unique to the region. These include endangered species like the small-eared Amami rabbit and the Ryukyu long-haired rat, as well as the Iriomote cat – a subspecies of the leopard which lives exclusively on the island it is named after.
Together, the islands make up 42,698 hectares of subtropical rainforests that are completely uninhabited by humans. According to Nikkei, this latest designation will likely lead to a surge in tourists while the local governments of Kagoshima and Okinawa are working on improving preservation efforts.
The last destination added to Unesco’s list of world natural heritage sites in Japan was the Ogasawara Islands in 2011.
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