It’s been four years this month since the island nation of Japan was hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake. This 9.0 magnitude quake rocked the island and created tsunami waves up to 133 feet high. Whole towns were destroyed and 16,000 human lives were lost. The stories of death and destruction were heart wrenching. Then came the disaster at Fukushima Dai-Chi, one of Japan’s 54 nuclear power plants, and among the 25th largest in the world. The plant was damaged by the quake and a 40-foot wave. Following the damage of the plant were, cooling failures, rod meltdowns, and hydrogen explosions, emitting radioactive material into the surrounding areas. People within a 30 km radius were evacuated, approximately 100,000 total. This area is now known as the radioactive exclusion zone. Many people fled, and for fear of the radiation never returned to their houses. The area is now a ghostly region filled with buildings and people’s past belongings. However, there is another group that was forgotten in the radiation zone, the animals of the people who lived there.
A construction worked from the plant who had already been exposed to radiation returned for his own animals. When he entered the zone he discovered many others in need and has been caring for them ever since. 55-year-old Naoto Matsumura is known as “the Guardian of Fukushima’s Animals.” Refusing to leave the government’s 12.5 mile exclusion zone, he has collected cows from locked barns, animals from tethers, and brought them all to a ranch he now maintains. All the animals, including the livestock, are given the opportunity to live and die of old age. He cares for them and even spays and neuters to try and restrict any population growth. Though he has been told to leave by the government, he stays claiming health officials say he won’t feel the radiation for 30-40 years and expects to be dead by than anyhow.
The photos circulating on the internet of Naoto and his animals are truly touching. A Dr. Dolittle, if you will, he communes with kittens, bottle feeds baby cows, and spreads grain for hungry goats and pigs. If only everyone had this kind of empathy for the animals with whom we share our planet.
Photos courtesy of Naoto Matsumara’s Facebook and Blog.Like