rabbits crawl on woman lying on ground
Many videos showing the rabbits swarming visitors for food contributed to the rising popularity of Okunoshima Island, or Rabbit Island. TheUwagaPies/YouTube

Thanks to social media, a small island in Japan recently became famous because it’s home to hundreds of feral rabbits. The island’s official name is Okunoshima, and it’s located in Hiroshima Prefecture about a five-hour trip from Tokyo. Numerous YouTube videos and articles document how people who visit the island with food are overrun by semi-tame rabbits looking for free meals.

The below video by YouTuber kanadajin3 from July 2014 might be one of the first to go viral. It has more than 1.1 million views. Although videos and articles about the island appeared before 2014, it seems that 2013 and 2014 are the years that the popularity escalated, and it continues to this day.

Origins Of The Rabbits

Why so many feral rabbits live on the island is partially a mystery. The island has no predators and is a historical park, which could explain why the rabbit population continues to grow. The mystery is the origin of the first rabbits to inhabit the island. Are the rabbits descendants of a few rabbits released by school children in the 1970s? Or are they descendants of rabbits that were on the island around the time of WWII when the island was home to a poison gas factory? Or did someone else release the domesticated rabbits that are the ancestors of today’s rabbits? The national park website states that eight rabbits were released by school children in 1971.

The BBC covered Rabbit Island on its Nature’s Weirdest Events series. The segment posted to its YouTube channel in 2015 and discusses theories on the origins of the rabbits and how relaxed the rabbit population is compared to wild rabbits.

The Science Channel covered Rabbit Island on its Outrageous Acts Of Science television show. The segment posted on its YouTube channel in 2015. Once again, the origin of the many rabbits is discussed.

The Great Big Story channel on YouTube also delved into the origins of the feral rabbit population on the island.

Still Fascinated By Rabbit Island

The YouTube channel My BB Bunny compiled a series of videos about Rabbit Island. Most of the videos show people being “greeted” by bunnies seeking snacks.

For a sense of what it’s like to go as a tourist to Rabbit Island, a 17-minute documentary by TheUwagaPies channel on YouTube takes you from the ferry to the bunnies on the island to the hotel. It also shows the poison gas museum and some of the remnants of buildings from the WWII era that are being reclaimed by nature.

Growing Danger To The Rabbits

As any celebrity will likely tell you, fame has a downside. For the rabbits of Rabbit Island, their fame poses what some people caution is a growing threat to their survival. An article from 2016 warns that the influx of tourists feeding the rabbits has created an unsustainable explosion in population. The food being fed, often cabbage and carrots, also isn’t ideal.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Click here to subscribe to our newsletter