Nearly Extinct Japanese Crested Ibis Flies Again on New Niigata Prefecture Coin
The fifth coin in Japanís Prefecture series features the magnificent Japanese Crested Ibis flying over Sado (Sadogashima) Island in the Prefecture of Niigata. This is a sight that was almost lost forever near the end of the last century.
The Japanese Crested Ibis (Nipponia Nippon), was revered by the shoguns of feudal Japan, who forbade their capture or death by hunting. But when Japan modernized following the Meiji Restoration in 1868, reverence for the birds was forgotten and they were hunted both for their feathers and for food. Then, after World War II, Japan's massive program of self-sustaining agriculture led to the use of vast amounts of fertilizers and pesticides, and the pollutants took their toll on the weakened ibis population. In 1952, the species was designated a Special Natural Monument, and in 1960 it was listed as an internationally protected species.
Formerly common in Japan, China, and eastern Russia, by 1981 there were believed to be only five Crested Ibises in the wild, all on Sado Island in Japanís Prefecture of Niigata. These were captured and placed in the Sado Japanese Crested Ibis Conservation Center with hopes that a captive breeding program might save the species. That same year, a Chinese researcher discovered seven wild Crested Ibises in Yang Xian county, Shaanxi Province, China. This was very fortunate because the captive Japanese birds failed to produce any young, and eventually they all died. The protected Chinese population began to increase, and in 1990, 25 ibis chicks were captured and placed in a protection and rearing centre. Eventually they began to produce young, and within a decade there were more than 130 Crested Ibises in captivity.
The Japanese Crested Ibis appears to be on the road to recovery, with the total population of wild and captive birds currently greater than 600. The program aims to reintroduce 60 ibises to Japan by 2015. There are currently 10 free-flying on Sado Island, five males and five females, all fitted with GPS tracking devices.
The 1000 Yen Niigata Prefecture 2009 coin is 1 oz. .999 fine silver, proof quality. The reverse design is the same for all of the coins in the Prefecture series: a crescent moon, cherry blossom flowers and snow crystals. The authorized mintage is 100,000, but only 10,000 are available outside of Japan.