Sword-tailed newt – Endangered species

The Sword-tailed newt (Cynops ensicauda) is an endangered species found on the main islands of Okinawa an Amami. It is currently listed endangered on the IUCN red list of threatened species. This amphibian is decreasing in numbers due to deforestation and road kill.

  • Scientific name: Cynops ensicauda
  • Distribution: Okinawa and Anami Islands
  • Habitat: Forests, wetlands and fresh water streams
  • Diet: Amphibian eggs, tadpoles, snails, worms and insects
  • Average size: 100-180mm
Sword tailed newt with stripes

Sword tailed newt with stripes

They all have bright orange bellies, which serve as a warning sign to predators that they are poisonous. When threatened they produce a transparent skin toxin.

  •  Poisonous animals are toxic if you eat them or ingest their secretions.  Irritations may occur after handling these newts if you have open wounds. Avoid rubbing your eyes or placing your hands in your mouth.

Photographed on a white field studio board for the Meet your neighbours global biodiversity project (MYN).  All images are used for conservation awareness and educational purposes.

MYN technique - Sword tailed newt

MYN technique – Sword tailed newt


Sword-tailed newt- Okinawa, Japan

The newt photographed in its natural habitat.

Sword-tailed newt in natural habitat

Sword-tailed newt in natural habitat

Sword tailed newt

Sword tailed newt -Onna village

Sword tailed newt

Sword tailed newt – Onna village

An average looking sword-tailed newt with a blood sucking leech

Sword-tailed newt with leech

Sword-tailed newt with leech

The Sword- tailed newt is often found crossing the road on rainy days in northern Okinawa. The government has designed specialized wildlife steps for animals that get trapped in road side drainage ditches. These steps allow the newts to crawl out safely.

Wildlife steps

Wildlife steps

Lets protect the wildlife of Okinawa!





Protecting Okinawa’s endangered beetles – Yanbaru forest

Poaching has been a big problem in northern Okinawa. The endemic animals of the Yanbaru forest are highly valued in the exotic pet trade market.  The Okinawan Ministry of the Environment and the wildlife protection center are working hard this year to prevent the poaching of these endangered species. The Okinawan’s are spreading the word in the news, local papers, flyers and even monitoring the forest roads at night.

Poaching flyer - Yanbaru

Poaching flyer -Yanbaru

August through September is when people search the forest for the rare Yanbaru long-armed scarab beetle (Cheirotonus jambar). If you see anyone taking this protected species please contact the authorities.  I have yet to photograph a live animal. It is one of the rarest beetles in the world.

Rarest beetle in Japan -Yanbaru long-armed scarab beetle

Rarest beetle in Japan -Yanbaru long armed scarab beetle, wildlife center

The giant Okinawan stag beetle (Dorcus titanus okinawanus) is also a high prized specimen in the pet trade.

Giant okinawan stag beetles

Giant okinawan stag beetles


Giant okinawan stag beetle 

Beetle collectors use fruit filled net traps to lure in the beetles.

Yanbaru beetle trap

Yanbaru beetle trap    (Dorcus titanus okinawanus)

The beetles hooked shaped arms get caught in the netting.

Giant stag beetle ( Dorcus titanus okinawanus )

Giant stag beetle (Dorcus titanus okinawanus)

Over the years, I have found a few traps with dead beetles attached.

dead beetle

Female okinawan stag beetle

Beetle collecting is popular in Okinawa. Its important to be familiar with the specific beetles that are protected species. Let’s protect the wildlife of the Yanbaru forest for future generations.




Pryer’s woodpecker (Dendrocopos noguchii) -Endangered species

Pryer’s woodpecker (Dendrocopos noguchii) is the prefecture bird of Okinawa and designated as a natural treasure of Japan. They are a rare species only found in the northern part of Okinawa and are currently listed critically endangered on the IUCN red list of threatened species.

  • Scientific name (Dendrocopos noguchii)
  • Distribution:  Northern Okinawa
  • Habitat: Yanbaru Forest
  • Diet:  Beetle larvae, moths, spiders, centipedes and fruit
  • Average Size:  30cm – 35mm
WILDLIFE AS CANON SEES IT -Published National Geographic May 2015

Shawn Miller featured – WILDLIFE AS CANON SEES IT -Published National Geographic May 2015

The woodpecker can rotate its head 180 degrees to capture the difficult insects. This is the first and only time I have observed this occurring.

Pryer's woodpecker  180 head twist

Pryer’s woodpecker 180 head twist

This woodpecker is unique. It feeds its young only one insect at a time.

Pryer's woodpecker in flight

Pryer’s woodpecker in flight

Both parents stay busy feeding the chicks. The nests can have up to three chicks.

Pryer's woodpecker feeding chick

Pryer’s woodpecker feeding chick

The woodpeckers biggest threats are deforestation and natural predators.

The woodpeckers natural threat

The woodpeckers natural threat – Jungle Crow

My favorite image of The Pryer’s woodpecker.

Pryer's woodpecker (Sapheopipo Noguchii) Yanbaru forest

Pryer’s woodpecker (Sapheopipo Noguchii) Yanbaru forest

Lets protect the wildlife of Okinawa.

Have a great day!

Slow Down! – Let’s Protect The Okinawa Rail

The Okinawa rail is a flightless bird only found in the northern part of Okinawa. It is a protected species and declared a living natural monument. It is currently listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as an endangered species.  In 2012 populations of this endemic bird were estimated at 1500 by the Environment Ministry.

okinawa rail

The Okinawan rail -

The rail is often found feeding on the side of the road. It feeds on worms, snails and insects.

Okinawa rail posing ( Hypotaenidia okinawae)

Okinawa rail posing ( Hypotaenidia okinawae)

When defending its territory, the rail will become aggressive and flare its wings.

Angry Bird- Okinawa rail

Angry Bird- Okinawa rail


Okinawa rail awareness signs are posted along the main roads in northern Okinawa for their protection.

Okinawa rail awareness signs are posted

Okinawa rail awareness signs

The speed limit is only 40km/h so watch your speed for the protection of the wildlife. The rails are often seen feeding on the side of the road.

40km/h speed sign

Posted speed limit is 40km/h

I have observed these birds crossing the road on many occasions. They have no problems crossing when people are driving the speed limit. Speeding decreases your reaction time so slow down and pay attention to all crossing wildlife.

Okinawa rail crossing the road

Okinawa rail crossing the road


An Okinawa rail that was killed by a speeding motor vehicle on Route 2 in northern Okinawa.

okinawa rail - road kill

okinawa rail – road kill

Let’s protect the wildlife of Okinawa, Japan.

Have a great day!

Light & Motion – The ultimate flashlight for wildlife photographers.

I have been using the Light & Motion Sola underwater lights for over two years now. I take them on all my adventures to include scuba diving, river trekking, caving and nature photography trips. These lights provide constant beautiful lighting and are extremely reliable, which is why they are the perfect light for me.

Below is a photograph of me using Light & Motion lights in the field. I am the Japan contributor for the Meet Your Neighbours field studio project. Photographing the animal on white isolates the subject without any distractions. The animals are handled with care and then released back into the environment without harm. The images are used for conversation awareness and educational purposes.
A photograph of me documenting the endangered species of the ryukyu islands

Photograph courtesy of  Gary Hughes          assistant – Shannon Fox

The Ryukyu black-breasted leaf turtle (Geoemyda japonica) is an endangered species found in Northern Okinawa. This turtle is decreasing in numbers due to poaching, deforestation and road kill. The turtle is high valued in the pet trade market and needs to be protected.

Ryukyu Black-breasted Leaf Turtle, Ryukyu Leaf Turtle ( Geoemyda japonica Fan, 1931 )

Ryukyu Black-breasted Leaf Turtle           MYN field studio

I recently purchased the Light & Motion Sola compact tray with the extension kit and one GoBe 700 wide light. I have been using this setup with the Canon 70D to document the wildlife in Okinawa. The flexible Loc-line arms are an awesome advantage. They are easy to move while having full control over the constant lighting.   

Using the Light & Motion field setup

Light & Motion field setup                         Photograph courtesy of Ross Gallardy

A photograph of a Ryukyu kajika frog in northern Okinawa using the Light & Motion field setup

okinawa frog

Ryukyu Kajika frog ( Buergeria japonica )

The Light & Motion Sola 600 has a built in feature most people do not take advantage of. The light has a red light function which allows the user to get close to land and marine subjects without disturbing them. This red light is very effective and I highly recommend using it.

Underwater setup with sola 600

My underwater rig with the Light & Motion Sola 600  - Ikelite housing and strobes

The Light & Motion Nightsea Sola light can also be used on land. I am always searching for animals that fluoresce in the Yanbaru forest in northern Okinawa. You never know what you will find!

Light & Motion Sola Nightsea Blue light - Riukiaria falcifera

Light & Motion Sola Nightsea Blue light    Millipede – Riukiaria falcifera

If you would like to know more about the Light & Motion Sola series visit.  http://www.lightandmotion.com/choose-your-light/sola

Have a great day!