Poko the Fish Owl

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Poko the Fish Owl
Author: Kageki Shimoda
Illustrator: Seigo Kijima
Specifications: ISBN  978-4591154649
32 pages
22.0 x 28.0 cm / 8.8 x 11.2 in (WxH)
Category: Children & YA
Ages: 5+
Publisher: Poplar Publishing Co., Ltd.
Tokyo, 2017
Buy now: amazon.co.jp


Representing wildlife in this picture book addressing the question of how they and humans can coexist is the eponymous species of bird known in full as “Blakiston’s fish owl.”

The central character is an elementary-aged boy named Isamu. As the story begins, he is riding with Dr. Etō of the Institute for Raptor Biomedicine Japan (IRBJ) in a rapid response veterinary ambulance equipped for conducting surgery in the field. Now resting in an incubator in the back of the ambulance is a young Blakiston’s fish owl that needed immediate treatment for his injuries after falling from his nest. When Dr. Etō talks about a fish owl that collided with a car the day before, and an earlier one he’d rescued after it was electrocuted by overhead electric wires, Isamu says, “I wish there weren’t any cars or electric wires.” He’s a big fan of fish owls, and he knows there are only about 140 of the endangered species left in Hokkaido.

“Since cars and electric wires weren’t part of the fish owl’s original habitat, that might be nice,” Dr. Etō says. “But what would happen to our own lives if we didn’t have cars and electric wires?”

Just then they come to a bridge that has poles jutting up from the rails along both sides, with flags fluttering at the top. “What do you think those flagpoles are for?” Dr. Etō asks Isamu, but Isamu is at a loss. The doctor then explains that these poles were added to bridges after the places where owls had died from crashing into cars were analyzed to determine exactly how it had happened. When the owls fly low over the river to catch fish, they climb back into the air just enough to clear the bridge, and if a vehicle comes along at the wrong moment, they collide. The poles make the birds climb higher, so they will clear the vehicles as well as the bridge. In this way, when humans learn more about the lives and habits of the fish owl, they can figure out ways to coexist without causing the owls harm.

The young owl that was rescued after falling from his nest is given the name Poko. Poko recovers from his injuries, but Dr. Etō discovers that he has suffered some brain damage and concludes that he probably can’t survive in the wild. He decides to keep Poko at the institute and make him a goodwill ambassador to help teach humans about the fish owl.