Monday, June 30, 2008


Tan Tan Tanuki no kintama wa,
Kaze mo nai no ni,
Bura bura

As some of you may know, I spent nearly a year in Hokkaido, Japan, some time back. One creature I tried to see throughout my time there was the Racoon Dog or Tanuki – which is commonly depicted in popular culture with unfeasibly large balls!

This weekend I saw one for the first time, but not in the way I would have liked. I was in eastern Finland with Brian Stone, Will Bowell and Tony Parker and we were birding. The Tanuki, part of the 'introduced' European population (they are native to Asia), had been caught in a trap by a lake less than 100m from an official birdwatching tower (or Lintutorni).

Lured by bits of fish bait the poor beast was curled up in the cage, with flies over its face, resigned to death, motionless, spirit crushed and neglected by the trapper for God knows how long.

Memories came to me of the most horrific of YouTube footage of these unfortunate canids being skinned alive and conscious in China (apparently 1.5 million are reared for skinning in that country). I guess this Finnish animal was going to be a fur if the trapper ever came around to check his traps.

It took a bit of shaking, but we got it out of the cage and it ran away strongly into the woods.

Photo by Brian Stone

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