In the north of the Okinawa mainland, a number of Coca-Cola system vending machines participate in ecological research for the Okinawa Rail, an endangered species of bird and Japanese natural monument.
Existing vending machines were fitted with IC recorders and recorded the calls of the rails, providing data for surveying and analyzing.
As a result, one of the very first findings relates to the Okinawan rail’s calls. In the Yanbaru forests, there is a blank frequency in which no natural sounds fall – no insect chirps, no wind gusts, no rustling grass. It is essentially empty. But through the vending machine recordings, scientists discovered that the Okinawan rails have a special call that canonly be heard within this specific frequency. Because no other animals use the frequency, it is now thought that this unique trait of the rails evolved in the Yanbaru forests for protective reasons.
“This project had a unique approach to studying birds’ biology, and that was to use environmental sounds,” reflected Yukihiko Nakamura, with environmental performance and technical stewardship at Coca-Cola Japan. “From those sounds, the distinct traits of both the Okinawan rail and the Yanbaru forests were understood for the first time. We were able to obtain very useful results.”
There has never been a large number of Okinawan rails, but their numbers are decreasing as traffic in the region increases, and they’re being hit by cars. The Ministry of the Environment declared a state of emergency in 2007 and 2010, and in 2012 the department documented a record 47 car-related rail deaths.
The biological survey revealed that Okinawan rails might have a harder time sensing approaching cars during rainy weather. As a result, conservationists are hoping that in the future, specific measures to prevent the birds’ traffic deaths will be taken under consideration.
Nakamura explained the details of this undertaking, saying “In the future, we hope that by researching man-made noise’s effect on the Okinawan rail, we will be able to help prevent their extinction.”