Oasis in Tottori Sand Dunes off-limits to save endangered beetle

Save the beetle Tottori sand dunes
The Tottori Sand Dunes in Tottori Japan are home to an endangered beetle that is facing extinction. Photo by Kounosu, via Wikimedia Commons.

An oasis in the Tottori Sand Dunes is to be off-limits to save a rare endangered species of beetle. The oasis was a hot spot for Pokémon Go players who would flock to the area to catch the virtual creatures. Unfortunately, the influx of people resulted in a beetle species being stomped out so much that it could put their existence at risk.

The oasis is planned to be roped off to protect the beetle known as Cylindela Elisae. Since the launch of Pokémon Go in 2016, the number of insects plummeted due to people stepping on them.

The Tottori Sand Dunes are a part of a national treasure as well as a protection zone that is a part of the Sanin Kaigan National Park.

Roping off the area was confirmed during a conference discussing the regeneration of the sand dunes. The decision took into account that the restriction could impact tourists visiting the landmark but ultimately officials of the Environment Ministry and other made the decision to prioritise the regeneration of the landscape.

Nobuo Tsurusaki, a professor of animal ecology, stated that if we don’t take immediate action to protect the rare species of beetle they will move even closer to extinction. To show how drastically the beetle’s population dropped, researchers released the population of the beetles over the past couple of years.

  • 2015 – 2,300
  • 2016 – 1,460
  • 2017 – 153

A figure below 500 species population is considered endangered so the fact that it is less than 25 percent of the figure is very worrying.

The drop in population of the beetles isn’t solely the fault of Pokémon Go. Rising temperatures, sparse rainfall along with the influx of stomping tourists have really put these beetles in danger of extinction.

The prefecture took advantage of the Pokémon Go craze and when there was an in game event commencing they promoted that visitors play the game on the dunes. Over the course of three days the dunes had approximately 90,000 visitors.

During the event, Tsurusaki requested to not let Pokémon appear around the oasis to avoid any more damage to the eco system of the beetles. He wants to avoid a similar fate that the Calomera Angulate suffered as they are now considered extinct due to not being spotted since 1997.

Tsurusaki stated that he believes the extinction of the Calomera Angulate was from weed-removal that took place in the dunes as it was the species main source of food.