The Iriomote Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis iriomotensis) exists only on Iriomote Island on the Yaeyama chain of islands in Okinawa.
The Iriomote Cat is classified as critically endangered with less than 200 in the wild and great efforts are being undertaken to preserve the species. The Iriomote Cat is related to the Leopard Cat.
Known in Japanese as yamaneko (mountain cat), the animal is largely nocturnal and its diet consists of a variety of amphibians such as frogs, birds (ducks and crakes), crustaceans (crabs and freshwater prawns), fish, insects, for example, crickets, small mammals such as bats, rats and reptiles, especially lizards. Iriomote cats can swim and climb trees and mark out their territories (of about half a square kilometer) by urinating and defecating.
The Island of Iriomote promotes an awareness campaign for drivers to look out for the cats at night, as road accidents have taken a heavy toll on the animals. Underpasses have been built to allow the cats to cross roads.
The potential spread of the invasive cane toad is also a threat to the Iriomote Cat's survival as is hybridization with house cats and feral cats. Measures such as limiting the number of domestic cats allowed by each owner and micro-chipping have been enacted to help preserve the Iriomote Cat.
A good place to find out more about the Iriomote cat and efforts for its preservation is at the free Iriomote Wildlife Center (IWC) not far from the southern port of Ohara.
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