Signs of human impact on animal life are all around us – we’ve been able to tame them, genetically alter species, farm certain animals for food, and even domesticate them. Just look at dogs as an example, an animal once wild, has over the centuries become dependent on human intervention for its survival. No longer does Fluffy have to hunt for its next meal – instead, it now patiently awaits its owner to walk it, groom it, and take care of its basic needs. But what happens when animal species grow so rapidly that they become out of control? There are numerous places around the world where not only has nature reclaimed cities and other human settlements, but where animals have completely dominated entire areas. From beaches now shared with horses, to entire islands overrun by cats, rabbits and crabs, read on to find some of the most incredible places where animal populations far outnumber humans.
15. Kaua’i Island, Overrun By Chickens
Although the Hawaiian islands are home to numerous species of animals, few are as peculiar as the island of Kaua’i with its large feral chicken population. It is rumored that the chickens were originally brought over in canoes by the Polynesians, for whom they served as a major source of food. Since then, their population has grown to thousands of feral chickens which can be found roaming the streets sheltered from any real predators. Because the chickens are not a real nuisance, humans tend to avoid them, allowing them to share the streets and parks.
14. The Colosseum, Overrun By Cats
The city of Rome features many wonders to behold, from the ancient architecture to the gladiator impersonators roaming the streets. One particular (unexpected) attraction are the 200 feral cats that call the Roman Colosseum their home. Because of the warm climate, large mouse and pigeon population, and human generosity, the cats live quite comfortably. In fact, it is estimated that over 120,000 feral cats live in the city of Rome. Regional law states that a group of five cats or more are considered a protected colony and thus cannot be disturbed by humans. If you find yourself walking exploring the Colosseum, you may spot a furry feline lounging in the sun or hunting its next meal.
13. Assateague Island, Overrun By Horses
Off of the coast of Maryland and Virginia lies an uninhabited island whose main population is made up of sea birds and feral horses. The horses, known as Assateague horses in Maryland and Chincoteague Pony in Virginia, are separate by fence lines that also indicate the border between the two states, and have become a focal attraction of the island. The origins of the horses has been rumored to have been a sunken Spanish ship, but others believe it is likely the horses were released from the mainland by owners who wanted to avoid taxation. Regardless of their origin, the horses have a domestic origin and at one point, were kept as household animals. They have since become feral and have limited human interactions – other than the state caretakers and occasional campers.
12. Nara region, Overrun By Deer
On Honshu island, in the Nara region of Japan, people share their parks with the local deer population. Legends say that mythological god Takemikazuchi arrived in Nara riding a white deer to guard the once capital of Heijo-kyo. Since then, deer have been regarded as guardians of the city and have been allowed to roam the area freely and undisturbed. Until 1637, killing the deer was considered a capital offense punishable by death. Today, over 1200 deer can be found in the city. They are especially abundant in Nara Park, where visitors can purchase deer biscuits to feed them. The deer have become so accustomed to human attention, they have even learned tricks like bowing to them.
11. Ilha de Queimada Grande, Overrun By Snakes
20 miles (35 kilometers) away from Sao Paolo, Brazil, lies a small uninhabited island called Ilha de Queimada Grande. The island is home to over 4000 golden lance-head vipers, the world’s most poisonous viper. The viper’s bite is responsible for 90% of snakebite related deaths in Brazil, and traveling to the island has since been banned by the Brazilian government. Still, snake smugglers will often journey to the island for the vipers, whose venom is so rare it can sell for over $30,000 on the black market.
10. Big Major Cay, Overrun By Pigs
The Bahamian islands feature some of the most incredible sights in the world – from lush tropical forests, to sprawling white sand beaches, these islands are a sight worth seeing. If you find yourself exploring some of the wonders of the Bahamas and stumble upon the island of Big Major Cay, you may find yourself some unusual beach companions. The small island is not inhabited by people, but instead is home to a few dozen feral pigs (and some feral cats) who can often be found swimming in the warm waters of the Atlantic, or soaking up some rays on the beach. Various theories exist about the origins of these piglets, some believing them to have survived a shipwreck, while others believe they were placed there as a gimmick to attract tourists. Either way, the piglets are the main inhabitants of the island and attract many visitors who come to feed them and join them on the beaches of Big Major Cay.
9. Okunoshima Island, Overrun By Rabbits
Between 1929 and 1945, the remote and isolated island of Okunoshima was used by the Japanese army to produce and test poison gas. Their test subjects? A colony of rabbits which were brought to the island for the army to study the impacts of the poison. Today, hundreds of rabbits occupy their island, although many believe it is unlikely these are the ancestors of those unfortunate test bunnies. Many believe the rabbit population was brought on the island by the release of a few rabbits by tourists or children looking to free their pets – regardless, due to no real natural predators, the rabbit population has thrived. Nicknamed ‘Rabbit Island’, Okunoshima has become a major tourist attraction with people coming from all over the world to see and feed the many friendly rabbits.
8. Palos Verdes Peninsula, Overrun By Peacocks
For almost 100 years, the residents of Rolling Hills Estates, a small community on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, have been sharing their community with a large group of wild peacocks. The origin of the peacocks is credited to one of the original residents in the area, who so admired a flock of peacocks he’d seen in India, he brought some back with him. Since then, the peacock population has grown to over 1000. They can be found in parks, as well as trees and have become quite a nuisance to some locals, with some attacking and killing the birds in an effort to reduce their populations. To put a stop to the cruelty against the birds, the local sheriff’s department has adopted a law that will fine any offenders $200,000.
7. Christmas Island, Overrun By Crabs
Inhabitants of Christmas Island share their home with an unusual population: over 40 – 50 million red crabs, whose number swells to over 100 million during breeding season! Beginning in mid-October, the crabs begin their massive migration from the forest to the coast, where they breed and release their eggs into the sea. Because of their large numbers, the crabs have been known to puncture tires and cause significant traffic accidents. Motorists are often cautioned of the dangers of driving on the island, particularly during breeding season.
6. New World Mall, Overrun By Fish
Bangkok, Thailand’s New World Mall was once a bustling shopping attraction, until 1997, when building regulations forced its owners to close and abandon the mall. In 1999, a fire burned down the mall’s roof, causing further destruction. Rain water began leaking in, creating a still pond that served as the ideal breeding groups for mosquitoes. To deal with the mosquito problem, people released fish into the water, who over the years swelled to an estimated population of over 3000 fish! Efforts have been made to prevent the fish population from being harassed, by banning the throwing of anything except fish food into the water. Recently local fisheries have begun capturing the fish and releasing them into canals and lakes to provide them a better living habitat.
5. Lambay Island, Overrun By Wallabies
When one thinks of wallabies, images of the hot Australian sun are often conjured. But what if you found out that there is an island off the coast of Ireland that is home to a sizable wallaby population? The wallabies were said to have been introduced sometime in the 50s or 60s by the owners of the island, the Barings family, who wanted to use the island to raise exotic species. Tortoises, lizards and exotic spiders did not survive the cold climate of the island but wallabies were able to adapt. Their population was further increased in the 1980s, when the wallaby population at Dublin Zoo grew beyond capacity and 7 of them were brought and released on the island. Because of the limited human impact on the island, as well as the lack of natural predators, the wallaby population has grown to a group of 30 – 40 wallabies. The wallabies share this island with sea birds, deer and very few humans.
4. Zao Kitsune Mura, Overrun By Foxes
In Japan, foxes are said to be messengers of Inari Okami, the deity of fertility and prosperity, and are held in high regard. Zao Kitsune Mura, meaning Zao fox village, is a testimony to this belief, and features a name which perfectly describes what you can expect from Zao village – foxes! The sanctuary was opened in 1990 and provides shelter to many animals, including rabbits and horses, but the main attraction here are the hundreds of rescued foxes which have become so accustomed to the presence of humans they have become quite tame. The foxes are free to roam in the sanctuary and have become very friendly towards the many visitors who feed them, often approaching them to beg for treats.
3. Ramree Island, Overrun By Crocodiles
Ramree Island has become legendary for what occurred in its swamps in the winter of 1945. Surrounded, a troop of over one thousand Japanese entered a large swamp area, hoping to escape the Allied troops that were quickly closing in on them. Injured and weary, they had no idea that their journey would quickly come to an end when the countless salt water crocodiles present in the area began attacking them. Most did not survive the attack, with one account suggesting that over 980 soldiers lost their lives, making it the largest and most vicious known crocodile attack in history. To this day, the swamps of Ramree Island are still a home to many large salt water crocodiles, many growing over 20 feet long.
2. New Delhi, Overrun By Macaques
The macaque monkeys of New Delhi are a sight to be seen – they can often be found using public transit to move across the city to reach better sources of food. Over the years, they have become a major nuisance, destroying public parks and gardens, private property, and even attacking people for food. In 2007, New Delhi’s deputy mayor Surinder Singh Bajwa was attacked by a group of macaques and fell to his death. To deal with the monkey problem, the locals have begun using plastic langur monkeys, one of the macaques natural predators, as well as a tape recording of their cries to scare the macaques away. This has proven to be a temporary solution however, as the macaques have been known to quickly discover and destroy the fake moneys. Recently the city of New Delhi has hired a group of 40 men who specialize in dressing up as langur monkeys and mimicking their cries to scare away the macaques, a technique which has so far proven itself quite useful.
1. Tashirojima Island, Overrun By Cats
Cat lovers unite! There are numerous places in this world that have been overrun by cats – from the stray cats of the Canadian Parliament, to those of Tonawanda Island, choosing one particular spot to top this list was incredibly difficult.
Tashirojima Island, also known as Cat Island, is a small island off of the coast of Japan. Traditionally, the islanders raised silkworms and would use cats to keep away the mouse population which often attacked the silkworms. The islanders became quite fond of the cats, treating them as symbols of good fortune, and would build shrines for them. Over the years the population of the island was reduced to just 100 people, but the cat population continued to grow. Today there are thousands of feral cats inhabiting the island which are cared for by the local population. Since 2009, dogs have been banned from the island so as to not threaten the local cat population. The cats have become a major tourist attraction to the island, with tourists having the option of staying in cat shaped cabins overnight.
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