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Rabbits around old military facilities on Okunoshima. (Photo: Francesco Libassi/AFLO/Nippon News/Corbis)

This Once-Secret Island Now Hosts Hordes of Adorable Bunnies

Now home to hundreds of semi-tame bunnies, the island once housed poison gas facilities

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It's like an animal-loving child's fantasy come true: an island where hundreds upon hundreds of bunnies live, and they all want to play with you (or at least eat the food you brought with you). 

In Japan, such a place exists, the Guardian reports. It's nick-named Usagi Jima—Rabbit Island—but its official name is Okunoshima. Sandwiched between Japan's main islands of Honshu and Shikoku, tiny Okunoshima's claim to fame is its hundreds of semi-tame rabbits. Tourists regularly make the ferry trip to the island in order to spend time with its bushy-tailed residents, and the rabbits happily hop after them and snuggle up in exchange for a snack. 

As the Guardian points out, however, Okunoshima's history isn't all fuzzy adorableness and baby bunnies. Beginning in 1929 and until World War II, the island served as headquarters for an ultra-secret poison gas and chemical weapons production plant. Officials even removed it from maps to prevent people from knowing about it. The chemical weapons facilities, however, might have a tie to the rabbits. The Guardian explains: 

Some claim the rabbits that live there now are relatives of the test bunnies that were freed by the workers at the end of the war, others are less convinced; it has been reported that all the rabbits were killed when the factory ceased production. The other theory is that eight rabbits were brought to the island by schoolchildren in 1971, where they bred (presumably like rabbits) until they reached their current population, which is potentially in the thousands. And with the island being a predator-free zone – dogs and cats are banned – if the number of rabbits hasn't hit the thousands yet, it's inevitable it will do soon.

Regardless of how the bunnies got there, they've certainly left their mark. They've become internet sensations as well as a major tourist draw, but by the looks of it those notorious invasive species have also completely decimated the island's native vegetation, turning Okunoshima into a miniature Australia, circa 1930. Their cuteness, however, ensures that they'll never starve. Unless Japan decides to eradicate the bunnies, fluff-loving tourists will no doubt happily keep the population well fed, even if it's far exceeded its neutral carrying capacity. 

Here, you can see a giddy tourist being chased by horde of hungry bunnies: 

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