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The Iriomote cat, can be defined as a unique wild cat population.It is quite remarkable that the Iriomote cat has been on the brink of extinction for several decades but it still hangs on to survival. This is pretty exceptional among small cat populations. It has been estimated that only about 100 Iriomote cats are left!
The Iriomote cat is also believed to be “a lost fossil”, with some morphological features that are considered to be quite ancient in the cat family.
After its discovery, it was immediately given strict protection and the Iriomote National Park was created. However, since studies have shown that this cat prefers areas below 100 m asl and since the National Park mostly encompasses areas above 100 m asl, this protected area cannot adequately ensure the survival of the Iriomote cat , Additionally, although most of the island’s forests are protected as a National Forest, its protection status is considered weak. And private lands can be developed unrestrictedly. Therefore, suitable habitat for the Iriomote cat continues to be degraded and destroyed. Taking into account the small size of the island, any little portion of adequate habitat for this wild cat population that is damaged or destroyed poses a serious threat for the increase and the long-term survival of its population.
Along with the aforementioned traffic accidents, logging due to development, and development of the swamplands, house pets are also causing problems. House cats and stray cats especially cause issues with competition, disease transmission, and genetic pollution due to hybrid born of inter-species breeding. It is also feared that dogs prey on the Iriomote cats
The iriomote cat mainly inhabits the lowland coastal regions of the island which bring it into direct conflict with the islands human population. Recent estimates of the total number of iriomote cat have put the figure as low as 100