International Society For Endangered Cats

A Voice For The Wild Cats of the World

Japan’s Wildcats: Part One, The Iriomote Cat

There are two wild cats native to Japan; the Iriomote Cat and the Tsushima Cat.  The Iriomote Cat (Prionailurus iriomotensis) is an individual species while the Tsushima Cat is a subspecies of the Leopard Cat.

Iriomote Island is Okinawa’s second largest island.  Until the end of World War II, the Iriomote Island was largely uninhabited due to malaria.  After the war, US Forces eradicated malaria from the island but it remains largely undeveloped and 90% of island is covered by jungle and mangrove forests.  The Iriomote Island is home to several unique species, the Serpent Eagle, the Semaruhakogame (a rare nocturnal box turtle) and the Iriomote Cat.  It is estimated that there are only 60-100 individuals remaining.  The Iriomote Cat is so elusive and rare that several experts who have studied this cat their entire lives have never seen an Iriomote Cat in the wild.   Until rather recently, the Iriomote Cat was considered a subspecies of the Leopard Cat but in light of the cat’s anatomy, in particular their toes are partially webbed and their nails do not fully retract, it was determined that this cat is its own unique species.

Stay tuned for Japan’s Wildcats: Part Two, The Tsushima Cat.

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