Human population has been growing exponentially over the last few decades. We have destroyed the natural habitats of many animals to create cities and industries for ourselves. The number of critically endangered species is on the rise, and its high time we do our best to protect them. Under such circumstances, it feels wonderful to know that there are certain places in the world where animals roam freely without any danger. We bring to you 10 such islands that are ruled by animals.
1. Santa Catalina Island is home to 150+ bison who have been living there ever since a film crew brought 14 of them for a film shoot in 1924 and then just left them behind. They survived and even enlarged their population.
Santa Catalina is a small island in California. The island is just 22 miles (35 km) in length and eight miles (13 km) in width. The island is home to a large number of bison. In 1924, a film crew imported 14 bison for shooting a movie on the island. The movie was called The Vanishing American, and apparently, the scenes with the bison did not make it to the final movie. Due to expenses, the crew decided to leave the bison on the island rather than taking them back to the mainland. Today, the bison herd has around 150 animals.
Although Santa Catalina has a population of around 4,000 people, 90% of that is confined to Avalon, the island’s only incorporated city. So, the bison herd and the other animals on the island have a lot of areas to roam about. (source)
2. An uninhabited island in the Bahamas has a population of very unique pigs. These beach hogs are believed to have been either left by sailors who planned to return to eat them, or they may have survived a shipwreck.
Commonly known as the “Pig Beach,” this uninhabited Big Major Cay Island in Exuma, Bahamas, is swarming with adorable, feral pigs. The pigs live on the island and the shallows surrounding it. It is believed that the pigs were left there by a few soldiers with the intention to come back and turn them into a delicious treat. But, they never returned causing the pigs to increase their population and make the island their home.
According to another story, the pigs were actually shipwreck survivors. They somehow managed to swim to the island and survived. While one legend says that the pigs escaped from an inlet located nearby, the other says that the pigs were introduced purely for tourism purposes. Whatever the story behind these pigs, they sure have attracted a large number of tourists to the island. (source)
3. Cats on the Japanese island of Tashirojima outnumber the people by a ratio of six to one. There are just 100 people and more than 600 cats.
In the small Japanese island of Tashirojima, the human population is just 100. On the other hand, the island has around 600 cats, six times the number of humans. This feline domination dates back to the mid-18th and the 19th centuries. During that time, the island residents raised silkworms to weave textiles. They valued the cats as they used to drive away mice from eating the silkworms.
The cats were constantly being fed by the fishermen, and their population kept on increasing. There’s even mythology that says that the fishermen started considering the cats as a good luck charm and built a shrine for them. Today, the island is taking advantage of the cat-loving tourists. There are numerous cat-themed and cat-shaped cabins across the island where visitors can spend the night. Also, dogs are banned from the island to help the cats flourish and live a stress-free life. (1, 2)
4. Uninhabited Assateague Island’s real owners are not humans but wild ponies who roam around the beaches freely. Some say that they survived a shipwreck whose remains can still be found beneath the sands of the beaches.
Assateague Island is an uninhabited island in the United States whose northern part lies in Maryland while the southern part lies in Virginia. The island is home to a rare breed of horses who have been on the island since the 1600s. Known as the “Chincoteague pony,” these ponies have a rich legend behind their existence on the island. Legend says that they are the survivors of Spanish shipwrecks. But experts believe that it is more likely they have been released on the island by colonists who were looking to escape livestock laws and taxes in the 17th century. Today, there are around 300 ponies living on the island with around 1,000 Chincoteague ponies living off-island as they were either purchased or taken by private breeders.
The Chincoteague ponies are smaller in stature when compared to mainland horses because of the poor habitat and diet on the island. Moreover, at various points in history, the introduction of blood from different breeds combined with uncontrolled inbreeding led to the characteristics that we see today in the ponies. (1, 2)
5. Nicknamed “Deer Island,” Miyajima is a Japanese island inhabited by over 1,000 Sika deer. The deer roam around the historic shrines of the island and are found near the iconic and sacred Torii Gate. They are really friendly and accept food from visitors.
Miyajima in Japan must be the only island where deer and humans enjoy living side by side. According to the local folklore, the deer in Miyajima were once considered sacred. They were worshipped as messengers of God. Even today, many deer hang around the Torii Gate, the most prominent landmark in the Itsukushima Shrine.
The deer in Miyajima interact freely with tourists. Most of them live in the 500-acre Nara Park that has a number of shrines and stone lanterns scattered around. As of 2016, there were more than 1,200 deer on the island. (source)