The Iriomote Cat

Cat of the Month ~ July 2017
an iriomote cat prowling

An Irimote prowls on a tree branch

Photograph: © Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park

The Iriomote cat is probably a subspecies of the leopard cat or may be the sole member of an entirely separate genus (Mayailurus Iriomotensis)….who knows!

Iriomote live only on the small Japanese island of Iriomote or ‘Iriomote-jima’ and nowhere else on the planet. The island lies 200 kilometers to the east of Taiwan and has a total area of 113 square miles (292 sq km).

Iriomote cats have a dark grey and brown fur colour with lighter hair on the belly and insides of the limbs. The sides are marked with rows of dark brown spots, which often form into stripes around the neck and legs. It has been observed that the Iriomote cat has a relatively elongate and low-slung build, with short legs. The tail is dark brown (with a darker spots pattern on the back sides) whilst the underside of the tail is solid dark brown as is the very tip of the tail. It has rounded ears with black fur spread along the edges. Adult Iriomote cats have a white spot on the back of each ear, much like those found on tigers’ ears. Young Iriomote cats do not have these marks, and even as adults the spots will not be as white as those seen on other leopard cat subspecies. Its eyes are a light amber shade and there are two dark brown spots on each cheek.

Habitat

Iriomote cats have been seen in wooded mountainous areas, open country and even mangrove swamps and beaches along the island shores. They will though also climb trees, wade into water and even swim. It is thought to spend most of its time alone and, like many wild cats, is mostly nocturnal and especially active during twilight hours. During the daytime, they tend to sleep in tree hollows or in caves (out of the heat of the day and no doubt away from human disturbance). To mark territory they will urinate and defecate on rocks, tree stumps and bushes. Their home ranges vary from 1 to 7 sq km (or 0.38 to 2.7 sq miles) in area.

Food

Recent studies into the cat’s diet reveal that its prey includes animals such as fruit bats, birds, wild pig, rodents, reptiles, amphibians, and crab. The cat also can swim well and will catch fish if the opportunity presents. It has been shown that these cats prefer areas near rivers, forest edges, and places with low humidity.
Iriomote cats are carnivorous and prey on various mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and crustaceans. They typically ingest 400–600 gramms (0.88–1.32 lb) of food a day. Other wild cats primarily hunt small mammals, such as rodents and rabbits, but because there are no other carnivores to compete with the Iriomote cat on the island, there is no need for them to isolate themselves from the various habitats and food sources that are available. Thus, their diet is quite varied.

Mammalian prey includes black rats, Ryukyu flying foxes and young Ryukyu wild boar. Their prey also includes a wide range of birds, such as the spot-billed duck, slaty-legged crake, Eurasian scops-owl, pale thrush, and white-breasted waterhen. Reptiles include various types of snakes and Kishinoue’s giant skink. They are also known to hunt Sakishima rice frogs, yellow-spotted crickets and crabs. As their hunting grounds tend to be in swamps or on shores, they sometimes swim and dive to catch water birds, fish, and freshwater prawns.
When eating birds that are larger than a dusky thrush, most types of cats will pluck the feathers and then eat it, but the Iriomote cat will eat even large birds whole without removing the feathers. “How big is a dusky thrush Ed?”….no idea Osc… let me just look that up.

a pair of iromote cats in captivity

A Pair of Irimote cats, likely to be in captivity

Photograph: Source Unknown

Since the Iriomote cat mainly inhabits the lowland coastal regions of the island, the cat is in direct conflict with the island’s human population. Recent estimates have put the total Iriomote cat population to be as low as 100 individuals. The threats to this rare cat are loss of habitat, growing competition from the island’s feral cat population, and tourism.

Names

The Iriomote cat (Prionailurus bengalensis iriomotensis) was discovered in 1965 by Yukio Togawa (戸川幸夫 Togawa Yukio), an author who specialized in works about animals. In 1967, it was first described by Yoshinori Imaizumi, director of the zoological department of the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo. However before its scientific discovery, the Iriomote cat was known locally by various beautiful names. In Japanese, the cat is called Iriomote-yamaneko (西表山猫, “Iriomote mountain cat”). In local dialects of the Yaeyama language, it is known as yamamayaa (ヤママヤー, “the cat in the mountain”), yamapikaryaa (ヤマピカリャー, “that which shines on the mountain”), and meepisukaryaa (メーピスカリャー, “that which has flashing eyes”).

This small cat has been listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List since 2008, as the only population comprises fewer than 250 adult individuals and is considered declining. As of 2007, there were an estimated 100–109 individuals remaining. It is certainly one of the rarest of cats, with its entire population contained on one Japanese island.

Source: From Wikipedia & others

The Rarest Leopard

Cat of the Month ~ January 2017

The Far Eastern leopard (Pantera pardus orientalis) is the rarest surviving subspecies of leopard. The only surviving Far Eastern leopard population is in the southern Far East of Russia. Today it numbers between just 30 and 50 animals.


A Far Eastern Leopard in captivity. He may live 5 years longer than his wild brothers

Photograph: © The Far Eastern Leopard Programme

It was only in 1972 that collected information on the rare Far Eastern wild cat was summarised in an official document by Vladimir Geptner and Arkady Sludsky. It noted that only three isolated groupings of Far Eastern leopards exist in the Far East: at Prikhankaisky, in southern Sikhote-Alin, and one in the Nadyozhdinsky and Khasansky Districts in the southwest of the Primorye Territory.

Range of the Far Eastern Leopard

Map: © Ed (with help from Google)

The Far Eastern leopard used to live at the Komarov Ussuri State Nature Reserve and was an unprotected species both in the reserve and in the surrounding areas. During the 1930s and 1940s all predators, including the leopard, were routinely destroyed, both at the Ussuri and other nature reserves. From 1956, hunting leopards was officially outlawed, but the economic development of the leopard’s natural habitat, especially deer parks, had a negative impact on the stability of the population. These factors, together with a sharp increase in poaching, led to a significant decline in the population and a sharp decrease in the geographical range inhabited by the leopard. It’s notable that the Eastern Leopard also shares its habitat with the Siberian Tiger, which likely competes for available prey stocks.

Detailed studies of the current distribution, numbers, and structures of the populations, the social organisation, reproduction, food and other biological characteristics of the Far Eastern leopard were conducted in 1976 by Dmitry Pikunov and then subsequently in 1986 by Viktor Korkishko. The completion of these studies led to the publishing in 1992 of the document ‘The Far Eastern Leopard’, which presented the most comprehensive information to date on the Far Eastern leopard.

A Cautious Pair of Leopards

Photograph: © The Far Eastern Leopard Programme
Study

Between 1993 and 1998 a project was carried out in Russia which focused on studying the size and structure of the habitats of Far Eastern leopards using VHF transmitter collars.

Over the last 10 years the study of the Far Eastern leopard population has focused on determining the numbers of the subspecies using a variety of approaches, chief among them the traditional method of tracing their tracks and photo identification of the animals with the use of camera traps. A study to determine the status of the Far Eastern leopard using molecular genetic techniques has begun, and comprehensive veterinary studies have also been carried out.

A lone Eastern Leopard roams the forest

Photograph: © The Far Eastern Leopard Programme
Warning Signs

Today there is only one population of the Far Eastern leopard, numbering somewhere between 40 and 52 animals. This rare species of wild cat has been included on the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and is in danger of extinction.

In recent years the leopards’ food supply has shrunk considerably due to forest fires and the development of the infrastructure of the Primorye Territory. As a result of the economic development of the forests and poaching, the leopard’s main food source, the roe deer, is slowly being destroyed.

Leopard cub ~ Keeping hope alive for the future of the Far Eastern Loeopard.

Photograph: © The Far Eastern Leopard Programme
Some Good News

If urgent measures are not taken to preserve these animals, the Far Eastern leopard population will die out. In connection with this, in 1999 the Strategy for the Preservation of the Far Eastern Leopard in Russia was adopted. This strategy proposes improving the network of leopard reserves (specially protected natural areas), optimising wildlife management in the leopard’s habitats, creating a viable population in captivity and reviving the dwindling population in the wild. The strategy also suggests that the numbers of leopards and the state of their habitats should be monitored, research studies conducted and measures to preserve the leopard promoted.

Original Article:

Please visit the above website for much more information and many more photos and video of this beautiful creature.

Sirga the orphan lioness

Cat of the Month ~ January 2015
Sirga is one hefty Cat.
Photograph: Caters News Agency
Sirga the lioness was abandoned by her pride as a young cub and left to fend for herself in the wide wild African bush. It was extremely lucky for the animal that she was rescued by the owners of the nearby Modisa wildlife sanctuary in Botswana, Africa. Today Sirga is a fully grown feline weighing in at over 110 pounds. She’s a beautiful brute of a lioness in fact.
Sirga with her two rescuers, Valentin and Mikkel

Photograph: Caters News Agency
By rescuing and looking after this cat, the owner of the sanctuary Valentin Gruener has forged an unbreakable bond with Sirga. Both Valentin and his fellow naturalist Mikkel Legarth are treated like fellow lions by Sirga. In return, the men help the Big cat to hunt for food and they get to receive the hugs of this most affectionate feline. Mikkel, explains: “The pride had three cubs and two were killed before Sirga was abandoned without food. It happened on our land and we couldn’t standby and watch her die.” “We didn’t want Sirga to become like other lions in captivity, constantly fed by streams of tourists. ” “She only interacts with me and Valentin. “She hunts her own food, taking antelopes and she will let us be near her when she eats it which is remarkable. “Sirga doesn’t mind people, but she doesn’t pay them any attention. Wild lions are scared of people, the problem comes if you release a lion that is used to people in the wild, that can cause problems.” “With Sirga we want to release her to the wild eventually as a wild lion not as one that has met lots of people. That would be dangerous.”
Sirga as a cub

Photograph: Caters News Agency
Valentin and Mikkel are conservationists who live in the real hope of saving the lion population in the Botswana vicinity but as is the case in so many animal environments today, increased farming activity is bringing lions and man into more and more conflict. The men have begun the Modisa Wildlife Project to work with local farmers to find a way to keep lions and man in their respective domains, so that they can live together in mutual harmony. The plan is to relocate the lions which are coming into contact with farmers to one large protected area where they have enough wild prey to feed on. Mikkel continues “If you release wild lions somewhere else, they will come straight back to where they were before because there is food there. “And if you just dump a pride of lions in the middle of a new territory they will disturb the prides that are already there. “In Botswana all lions are protected by the government. They are like swans being the property of the Crown in the UK. This also makes moving them a problem. “What we have now are 10,000-hectare plots with 10 to 15 lions in fenced enclosure, they are wild lions but we do have to feed them. “The first time you walk up to a lion all your body is telling you this is not something you should be doing.”

Lion Cub

Cat of the Month ~ October 2014
lion cub photo by sperka
Lion Cub at Play

Photograph: Christian Sperka
Christian Sperka was born in Germany in 1962 is a professional photographer and photography teacher based in Nashville, Tennessee. Over the last 10 years, Christian has traveled the world ( living in Germany, Switzerland and the USA) photographing mainly animals in wild game preserves of South Africa, the jungles of Costa Rica, as well as zoos in Switzerland and across the United States. His work has been featured in wildlife magazines, books and promotional campaigns for Nashville Zoo, Cincinnati Zoo and Zurich Zoo in Switzerland. In June 2010, Christian opened his Animal Art Photography gallery at the Arcade in Nashville. Since January 2011 he is the Offical Nashville Zoo Photographer and Photography Teacher. Visit Christian Sperka’s Website to view photographs of animals of all kinds.

Daisy the Carpathian Lynx

Cat of the Month ~ June 2014
Daisy the Carpathian Lynx

Photograph: Dudley Zoological Gardens

Our cat of the month for June is Daisy, a beautiful four year old Carpathian Lynx. Daisy lives at Dudley Zoological Gardens with two other adult Lynx, Dave and Chloe in a specially made compound they have there.

And why did we pick Daisy as our special feline … (and well you may ask Norman)…. it just so happens she’s recently become a proud mum of triplets (yes three bonny bounding cubs). So well done that Feline …and not forgettign Dave too of course. The triplets, who were born on May 23, have been cosying up with mum in the specially made dens but have within the last few days started to explore the surrounding undergrowth.

…proud Mum Daisy keeps a wary eye on the camera

Photograph: Dudley Zoological Gardens
Sixteen month-old male, Dave, transferred to Dudley from Salzburg Zoo in Austria in 2012, whilst our female, Daisy (when aged two) moved from Zoo Veszprem in Hungary in the autumn of 2012. Chloe, the third lynx of the trio is the long standing resident in Dudley but she had to be temporarily moved out of her usual enclosure to make way for the new guests. It’s taken them quite a while to get used to one another but now they get along just fine. See the footage of these lovely cats and thier keeper here
Daisy at play on her new rope scratching post

Photograph: Dudley Zoological Gardens
The transfer of these lynx is part of an ongoing European breeding programme for this rare subspecies of Eurasian lynx. And it looks like they struck feline gold this time!
Success … and they don’t get much cuter than this!

Photograph: Dudley Zoological Gardens

Snow Leopard

Cat of the Month ~ February 2014

With the heavy winter snows still affecting the United States, the cat of the month for February is the Snow Leopard. This beautiful cat was the mascot for the recent XXII Winter Olympics in Sochi and it was a fitting emblem for all the marvellous outdoor activities in Snow! Just like those athletes this feline surely is a master of its environment.

This special Leopard is currently found in ever dwindling numbers in Asia, Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Mongolia, Tibet and possibly also in Myanmar. To be more precise its geographic distribution runs from the Hindu Kush in eastern Afghanistan and the Syr Darya through to the Russian Altai mountains an on to the west of Lake Baikal. It is a sad and daunting estimatation that there are now only approximately 4,000 (yes four thousand!) snow leopards left in the wild, although this number is not a fixed certainty. We are stunned by this finding and can only hope that there are undiscovered snow leopards lurking in even more remote regions throught the world (lets live in hope). The recent footage from the Snow Leopard Trust shows a fine and rare photograph of one of these magnificent cats caught on film by an automatic research camera.
A wild Snow Leopard triggers an automatic camera.
Photograph: Snow Leopard Trust.
Snow leopards show several adaptations for living in a cold, mountainous environment. Their bodies are stocky, their fur is thick, and their ears are small and rounded, all of which help to minimize heat loss. Their paws are wide, which distributes their weight better for walking on snow, and have fur on their undersides to increase their grip on steep and unstable surfaces; it too also helps to minimize heat loss. Snow leopards’ tails are long and flexible, helping them to maintain their balance, which is very important in the rocky terrain they inhabit. Their tails are also very thick due to storage of fat and are very thickly covered with fur which allows them to be used like a blanket to protect their faces when asleep. The snow leopard also has a short muzzle and domed forehead, containing unusually large nasal cavities that help the animal breathe the thin, cold air of their mountainous environment. Both the WWF and the Snow Leopard Trust are working to protect this incredible cat. The Snow Leopard trust have been studying these felines for many years in Mongolia’s South Gobi. You can read about the cats Agnus, Arian (Pure), Ariumbeleg (Pure Spirit), Dagina (Beautiful Princess) and Dvekh (phoenix rising) on this meet the cats page. In the future lets hope we see a lot more cubs like this sturdy soul…
snow leopard cub
A wild Snow Leopard Cub, prowls for food (no doubt)
Photograph: Snow Leopard Trust.
Article Sources: Snow Leopard Trust, Wikipedia

Leopard Rescued from Gujarat Well

Forest wardens in India’s Gujarat state have rescued a three-year old leopard which had fallen into an open well. The leopard is the second of its kind to be rescued in the area this week, highlighting the growing problem of creatures loosing their habitat and having to stray into populated areas for food.
A young leopard peers towards a rescuers torch beam
Photograph: Biju Boro/AFP/Getty
The distressed leopard was finally winched to safety after many hours of incarceration and trauma. The animal was tranquilised using a dart after its struggles against a noose round its belly were thought to be harming the animal. Eventually the three-year-old animal was lifted from the water and hauled onto a wooden frame by a team of eight wardens in the village of Aambaliya.

It is said that the Leopard is becoming India’s Urban Fox as incidents such as this are growing in frequency as shrinking natural habitats forces more of these big cats to venture into human territory. They approach settlements where they are tempted to prey on domestic livestock including dogs, pigs and goats, and of course they will always be in need of a drink of water.
Leopard in the net. On his way to Freedom (oh sorry, the local zoo)
Photographs: Reuters
Leopards were once common across all of southern Asia but have been recently classified (since 2008) as ‘near threatened’ by International Union for Conservation of Nature. In May 2010, the Wildlife Protection Society of India estimated that at least 3,189 leopards were killed in the country since 1994.
The animal is sedated and taken to the nearby zoo. Poor Thing!
Photographs: Photo: Biju Boro/AFP/Getty
Norman and I are pleased the animal was freed from his ordeal but feel that incarcerating him in the local zoo (and not setting him free) was a little uncalled for. However we have no knowledge of affairs in this region and so hope the leopard is given a large home in which to live.