Weight: 12 pounds
Head/Body: 23 inches
Tail: 8 inches
The Iriomote cat was discovered in 1964, and is only found on the small Japanese island of Iriomotejima. It provides one of the most controversial debates in the speciation of the felidae family. The Iriomote cat is considered either a rare sub-species of the leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis iriomtensis), or as the sole member of a separate genus as Mayailurus iriomtensis. The debate continues.
However, if the Iriomote cat is eventually no longer classified as a sub-species of the leopard cat, then it must be considered as one of the rarest and most endangered species of wild cat.
The cat is brown in base fur color marked with rows of dark brown spots which often form into stripes around the neck and legs. The body size rarely reaches 2 feet and the tail and legs are short compared to body size. Little is known of the lifestyle of the cat, although it is thought to be mainly terrestrial and hunts at night. Recent studies of the diet of the cat have revealed that its prey ranges from mammals such as fruit bats, wild pig and rats and varied species of birds to reptiles, fish and insects.
The Iriomote cat mainly inhabits the lowland coastal regions of the island which bring it into direct conflict with the island's human population. A recent census of the total number of Iriomote cats has estimated the population as low as 100. Any small, restricted population must be considered at risk, and this coupled with the increased loss of habitat and growing competition from the island's feral cat population, can only serve to highlight the need for further research and increased conservation efforts.
The Iriomote cat is listed by the IUCN as Endangered.