Tanuki (=?UTF-8?Q?=E7=8B=B8?= or タヌキ, Tanuki)

Tanuki (狸 or タヌキ, Tanuki) is the Japanese word for the Japanese raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonides viverrinus). They have been part of Japanese folklore since ancient times. The legendary tanuki is reputed to be mischievous and jolly, a master of disguise and shapeshifting, but somewhat gullible and absent-minded.

Tanuki is often mistakenly translated as raccoon or badger.

Statues of tanuki can be found outside many Japanese temples and restaurants, especially noodle shops. These statues often wear big, cone-shaped hats and carry bottles of sake in one hand, and a promissory note or empty purse in the other hand. Tanuki statues always have large bellies. The statues also usually show humorously large testicles, typically hanging down to the floor or ground, although this feature is sometimes omitted in contemporary sculpture.[citation needed]

Organizers chose November 8 as the date for the Tanuki holiday because the emperor made his famous visit in November and because the tanuki has eight special traits that bring good fortune. The eight traits are: (1) a bamboo hat that protects against trouble, (2) big eyes to perceive the environment and help make good decisions, (3) a sake bottle that represents virtue, (4) a big tail that provides steadiness and strength until success is achieved, (5) over-sized testicles that symbolize financial luck, (6) a promissory note that represents trust, (7) a big belly that symbolizes bold decisiveness, and (8) a friendly smile.

The comical image of the tanuki is thought to have developed during the Kamakura era. The actual wild tanuki has unusually large testicles, a feature that has inspired humorous exaggeration in artistic depictions of the creature. Tanuki may be shown with their testicles flung over their backs like travellers' packs, or using them as drums. As tanuki are also typically depicted as having large bellies, they may be depicted as drumming on their bellies instead of their testicles -- particularly in contemporary art.

A common schoolyard song in Japan (the tune of which can be heard in the arcade game Ponpoko and a variation of which is sung in the Studio Ghibli film Pom Poko) makes explicit reference to the tanuki's anatomy:

Tan Tan Tanuki no kintama wa,
Kaze mo nai no ni,
Bura bura

Roughly translated, this means "Tan-tan-tanuki's testicles, there isn't even any wind but still go swing-swing-swing."[1] It then proceeds to continue for several verses, with many regional variations. It is sung to the melody of an American Baptist hymn called "Shall We Gather At The River?".[2]
Tanuki statues at a temple in Kamakura, Kanagawa, Japan.

During the Kamakura and Muromachi eras, some stories began to include more sinister tanuki. The Otogizoshi story of "Kachi-kachi Yama" features a tanuki that clubs an old lady to death and serves her to her unknowing husband as "old lady soup," an ironic twist on the folkloric recipe known as "tanuki soup." Other stories report tanuki as being harmless and productive members of society. Several shrines have stories of past priests who were tanuki in disguise. Shapeshifting tanuki are sometimes believed to be tsukumogami, a transformation of the souls of household goods that were used for one hundred years or more.

A popular tale known as Bunbuku chagama is about a tanuki who fooled a monk by transforming into a tea-kettle. Another is about a tanuki who tricked a hunter by disguising his arms as tree boughs, until he spread both arms at the same time and fell off the tree. Tanuki are said to cheat merchants with leaves they have magically disguised as paper money. Some stories describe tanuki as using leaves as part of their own shape-shifting magic.

In metalworking, tanuki skins were often used for thinning gold. As a result, tanuki became associated with precious metals and metalwork. Small tanuki statues were marketed as front yard decoration and good luck charm for bringing in prosperity. Also, this is why tanuki is described as having large kintama (金玉 lit. gold ball, means a testicle in Japanese slang).

While tanuki are prominent in Japanese folklore and proverbs, they were not always distinguished from other animals. In local dialects, tanuki and mujina (狢, kyujitai: 貉) can refer to raccoon dogs or badgers. An animal known as tanuki in one region may be known as mujina in another region. In modern Tokyo standard dialect, tanuki refers to raccoon dogs and anaguma refers to badgers. Regional dishes known as tanuki-jiru ("tanuki soup") may contain either raccoon dog or badger, although the taste of the latter is often preferred.

Originally, the kanji for tanuki, 狸 (kyujitai: 貍) was used to refer to other mid-sized mammals, mostly wild cats.[citation needed] Since wild cats live only in limited regions of Japan (e.g. Iriomote, Okinawa), it is believed that the characters began to be used to mean "tanuki" instead starting around the Japanese feudal era. This shift in meaning, along with the rarity of the raccoon dog outside Japan, may have contributed to confusion over the proper translation of "tanuki" into other languages.

In Japanese slang, tanuki gao ("tanuki face") can refer to a face that looks like that of the animal, or a person's facial expression of feigned ignorance[3]. Kitsune gao ("fox face") refers to women with narrow faces, close-set eyes, thin eyebrows and high cheekbones. The word "tanuki" is sometimes used as a Japanese code. It is a play on ta-nuki. Because "nuki" means "take out", the reader must remove the "ta"'s from the message.

Tanuki appear in numerous anime, manga and video games.

All the main characters in Pom Poko are shape-shifting tanuki who are trying to save their habitat from urban development. Japanese legends about tanuki and kitsune shapeshifting feature heavily throughout the movie. The tanuki were mis-translated in the film as raccoons.

Hachi, from the anime series InuYasha, takes the form of a tanuki, though he is introduced as a badger in the English dub.

Urusei Yatsura, which was written by the same author as InuYasha (Rumiko Takahashi) also features a tanuki in comical situations.

In Naruto, the one-tailed demon Shukaku that is sealed inside the body of Gaara is based on the Tanuki.

The tanuki is well represented in video games as one of Mario's power-up suits in Super Mario Bros. 3, a pair of characters in Super Mario Sunshine, the action stage identifier from The Legend of the Mystical Ninja and Rocky from Pocky & Rocky.

Tom Nook, the shopkeeper in Animal Crossing, is a tanuki (although translated as a raccoon) and the furniture and other objects that he buys and sells transform into leaves when stored in a player's inventory.

A tanuki is a main character in Tom Robbins' novel Villa Incognito.

The Masked Tanuki is an episode of the American animated television show Kappa Mikey and also the name of the superhero identity of one of the show's characters.

Tanuki also appear in the 2005 Seijun Suzuki film Princess Raccoon (aka Operetta tanuki goten).

In Ever17 Visual Novel by KID Komachi Tsugumi wears a mascot tanuki suit and beats the protagonist pretty hard when he tries to seek the help from her, when he gets lost in amusement park. Later, Yuubiseiharukana explains that isn't a 'tanuki', but 'lemur'.

In the manga/anime Shaman King, one of Tamao Tamamura's guardian ghosts is a Tanuki (Ponchi).

In the videogame Okami, Tanuki statues can be seen in front of various shops. - Discount Domain Registration - Make Money Now! - Make a Friend in Japan! - My Blog, Photos, and Videos


Japanese Marten

By Bill Barthen
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Caniformia
Family: Mustelidae
Subfamily: Mustelinae
Genus: Martes
Species: Martes melampus
Geographic Range

Martes melampus melampus is found on the islands of Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu in Japan. M. melampus melampus was introduced from Honshu to Sado and Hokkaido Islands in Japan by 1949 to increase fur products (Hosoda et al. 1999). Its distribution is southwestern Hokkaido, specifically the low altitude areas of the Oshima Peninsula and Ishikari, but research is needed to confirm its distribution (Murakami and Ohtaishi 2000). Martes melampus tsuensis is sparsely distributed on the Tsushima Islands of Japan (Buskirk 1994). Martes melampus coreensis is found on the mainland of South Korea into North Korea. (Anderson, 1970; Buskirk et al., 1994; Hosoda et al., 1999; Murakami and Ohtaishi, 2000)

Biogeographic Regions:
palearctic (introduced , native ).
1807 m (high)
(5926.96 ft)

Japanese martens are found along valleys, primarily in broad-leaved forests (dominated by Quercus serrata and Castanopsis cuspidata). This species will use conifer plantations and open fields (Tatara and Doi 1994). It will use dens in trees and ground burrows (Nowak 1999). Characteristics of the Tsushima Islands include: 88% forested, mean low January temperature of 4°C, mean high August temperature of 26°C, uncommon and light snowfall, and a low human population (Buskirk 1994). The habitat of this species is similar to that of Martes zibellina (Otsu 1972). (Buskirk et al., 1994; Nowak, 1999; Otsu, 1972; Tatara and Doi, 1994)

These animals are found in the following types of habitat:
temperate ; terrestrial .

Terrestrial Biomes:
taiga ; forest .
Physical Description
500 to 1700 g; avg. 250.50 g
(17.6 to 59.84 oz; avg. 8.82 oz)

470 to 545 mm; avg. 507.50 mm
(18.5 to 21.46 in; avg. 19.98 in)

The head and body length is 470 to 545 mm (Anderson 1970). The tail length is 170 to 223 mm. Age of martens is determined by tooth eruption and wear. Sexes are significantly different in size, with males being larger (Tatara and Doi 1994). Mass varies from 500 to 1,700 g for adults. Nine live-captured males averaged 1,563 g and 4 females averaged 1,011 g (Tatara and Doi 1994). Pelage coloration varies from yellowish brown to dark brown throughout with a white to cream-colored neck patch. (Anderson, 1970; Tatara and Doi, 1994)

Some key physical features:
endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry .

Sexual dimorphism: male larger.
Breeding interval
Japanese martens breed once yearly.

Breeding season
Breeding occurs in late March to mid-May.

Number of offspring
1 to 5; avg. 1.50

Age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
1 to 2 years; avg. 1.50 years

Age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
1 to 2 years; avg. 1.50 years

Information on mating behaviors of Japanese martens is unavailable.

Martes melampus reach sexual maturity between one and two years of age. They are seasonal breeders, mating from late March through Mid-May, and giving birth between mid-July and early August. Embryonic diapause probably occurs in M. melampus (Buskirk 1994). Japanese martens produce 1 to 5 offspring per litter, with a mean of 1.5. They are iteroparous. (Buskirk et al., 1994; Imaizumi, 1949; Kuroda, 1940; Macdonald, 1999)

Key reproductive features:
iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous ; delayed implantation .

Young are altricial, and are cared for by the mother. As in all mammals, the mother produces milk with which to feed her young. Japanese Marten kits are born deaf, blind, and furred (Macdonald 1999). Young martens can kill prey by 3 to 4 months and leave their mother shortly thereafter. (Imaizumi, 1949; Kuroda, 1940; Macdonald, 1999)

Parental investment:
altricial ; pre-fertilization (provisioning, protecting: female); pre-hatching/birth (provisioning: female, protecting: female); pre-weaning/fledging (provisioning: female, protecting: female); pre-independence (provisioning: female, protecting: female).

Information on lifespan in Japanese martens is unavailable.

Juveniles try to establish territories shortly after becoming sexually mature. Home range of male Japanese martens averaged 0.70 square km and females averaged 0.63 square km with less than 10% overlap between any 2 home ranges (Buskirk 1994). Relatively small home range sizes may depend on abundance and distribution of food within preferred habitat. Scats were found primarily in home range peripheries in a doughnut-shaped distribution. Scat placement confirms active maintenance of boundaries by scent marking, a common social behavior in mustelids (Tatara and Doi 1994). Martes melampus has been observed jumping up to 2 m from the ground into a tree (Yoshiyuki and Mikuriya 1974). (Buskirk et al., 1994; Tatara and Doi, 1994; Yoshiyuki and Mikuriya, 1974)

Key behaviors:
terricolous; nocturnal ; motile ; sedentary ; solitary ; territorial .
Food Habits

Scat analyses indicate that M. melampus is omnivorous. However, it may be characterized as an opportunistic generalist. It eats a highly diverse array of food through the year. Important foods are fruits and berries from spring to autumn, insects in summer and autumn, and small mammals and birds all year round. It likely competes with other carnivores for small mammals (Tatara and Doi 1994).

Foods eaten include plants (mostly berries and seeds): Diospyros kaki, Actinidia arguta, Rubus hirsutus, Elaeagnus pungens, E. umbellata, Vitis ficifolia, Ficus electa, Morus australis, Rhus spp., Stauntonia hexaphylla, and Camellia japonica, rabbits and other small mammals: Lepus brachyurus angustidens, Petaurista leucogenys niddonis, Clethrionomys rufocanus andersoni, Apodemus speciosus, Apodemus argenteus, Mus musculus, and Rattus, birds and their eggs: Phasianus soemmeringii scintillans, Phasianus colchicus karpowi, Turdus naumanni eunomus, and Emberiza cioides ciopsis, invertebrates: Coleoptera and Mantodea centipedes and spiders, Scolopendra subspinipes, frogs and their eggs: Rana tsushimensis, earthworms, fish, gastropods, and crustaceans: Ligia exotica and Sesarma haematocheir.

Japanese martens adapt their fruit and berry foraging to local plant phenology. In the presence of interspecific competitors or human disturbance, they change to alternative food resources, making them more adaptable than Mustela sibirica and Felis bengalensis, which are more prey specific (Tatara and Doi 1994). (Obara, 1970; Otsu, 1972; Tatara and Doi, 1994)

Primary Diet:
omnivore .

Animal Foods:
mammals; amphibians; fish; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods; mollusks; terrestrial worms; aquatic crustaceans.

Plant Foods:
Known predators

* humans (Homo sapiens)
* domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris)

Den selection is the most obvious adaptation to protection from predation. Martes melampus rests in tree and ground dens. Five adults were found killed by feral dogs and 38 killed by vehicle collisions between 1986 and 1989 (Tatara and Doi 1994). Humans also trap them. (Tatara and Doi, 1994)
Ecosystem Roles

Little is known about the ecology of the M. melampus (Buskirk 1994). It may be surmized from its predatory feeding habits, however, that populations of M. melampus affect local populations of small mammals and birds, thereby affecting seed dispersal, etc. (Buskirk et al., 1994)
Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

These martens may consume insects that are beneficial to agriculture (Otsu 1972). (Otsu, 1972)
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Martes melampus is trapped for fur from 1 December through 31 January (Nowak 1999) except on Hokkaido and the Tsushima Islands, where it is protected (Buskirk 1994). It is illegal to harvest females (Otsu 1972), a restriction that helps to preserve the population. Martes melampus predation of Lepus brachyurus is beneficial to the timber industry, because L. brachyurus browsing may destroy tree quality (Otsu 1972). (Buskirk et al., 1994; Nowak, 1999; Otsu, 1972)

Ways that people benefit from these animals:
body parts are source of valuable material; controls pest population.
Conservation Status

IUCN Red List: [link]:
Lower Risk - Least Concern.

US Federal List: [link]:
No special status.

CITES: [link]:
No special status.

Martes melampus is a species of concern due to pressure from human activities in recent years, which has brought drastic changes in the natural environment of Japan. It is decreasing in numbers due to excessive trapping for its fur and because of the harmful effects of agricultural insecticides. As a result, females are protected from trapping (Otsu 1972).

Martes melampus tsuensis was designated a vulnerable Natural Monument Species by the Japanese Agency of Cultural Affairs in 1971 (Buskirk 1994), which supported its classification as vulnerable by the IUCN (Hilton-Taylor 2000). This subspecies is now legally protected on the Tsushima Islands (Schreiber et al. 1989). Although the Tsushima Islands are 88% forested, 34% of the forest is conifer plantation. This poses a challenge, because important foods of M. melampus tsuensis may not be common in these plantations (Tatara and Doi 1994). Between 1986 and 1989, 38 M. melampus tsuensis were found killed by vehicles and another 5 were found killed by feral dogs. The conservation plan for this subspecies should consider further habitat degredation by forestry practices and road development, as well as a method to control feral dogs (Buskirk 1994).

If there are no mating isolation mechanisms between endemic M. zibellina and introduced M. melampus in Hokkaido, natural hybridization between them may be possible (Hosoda et al. 1999). Hosoda suggests protection of M. zibellina from gene contamination by introduced M. melampus. Fortunately, there is no documentation of hybridization yet. However, mating isolation mechanisms between them have not been studied. Further research should evaluate whether there are different pre- and post-mating isolation mechanisms, in order to maintain the endemism of M. zibellina. (Buskirk et al., 1994; Hosoda et al., 1999; Otsu, 1972; Schreiber et al., 1989)
Other Comments

Genetic studies show that M. melampus separated from Martes zibellina about 1.8 million years ago (Hosoda et al. 1999; Kurose et al. 1999).

Hepatozoonosis is prevalent, but susceptibility to it may be low. The most commonly parasitized organ was the heart (Yanai et al. 1995). (Hosoda et al., 1999; Kurose et al., 1999; Yanai et al., 1995)

Bill Barthen (author), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
Chris Yahnke (editor), University of Wisconsin Stevens Point.

Anderson, E. 1970. Quaternary evolution of the genus *Martes* (Carnivora, Mustelidae). Acta Zoologica, 130: 132.

Buskirk, S., A. Harestad, M. Raphael, R. Powell. 1994. Martens, sables, and fishers: biology and conservation. Ithaca, New York, U.S.A: Cornell University Press.

Hilton-Taylor, C. 2000. 2000 IUCN red list of threatened species. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN.

Hosoda, T., H. Suzuki, M. Iwasa, M. Hayashida, S. Watanabe. 1999. Genetic relationships within and between the Japanese marten *Martes melampus* and the sable *Martes zibellina*, based on variation of mitochondrial DNA and nuclear ribosomal DNA. Mammal Study, 24: 25-33.

Imaizumi, Y. 1949. The natural history of Japanese mammals. Tokyo, Japan: Yoyo shobo.

Kuroda, N. 1940. A monograph of the Japanese mammals. Tokyo, Japan: Sanseido.

Kurose, N., R. Masuda, B. Siriaroonrat, M. Yoshida. 1999. Intraspecific variation of mitochondrial cytochrome b gene sequences of *Martes melampus* and *Martes zibellina* (Mustelidae, Carnivora, Mammalia) in Japan. Zoological Science, 16: 693-700.

Macdonald, D. 1999. The encyclopedia of mammals. New York, New York, U.S.A: Facts on File, Incorporated.

Murakami, T., N. Ohtaishi. 2000. Current distribution of the sable and introduced Japanese marten in Hokkaido. Mammal Study, 25: 149-152.

Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, Sixth Edition. Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A: The John's Hopkins University Press.

Obara, I. 1970. Stomach contents of a Tsushima marten, *Martes melampus tsuensis*. Mammalogical Society of Japan Journal, 5: 79-80.

Otsu, S. 1972. Winter food of Japanese yellow marten, *Martes melampus melampus* (Temminck and Schlegel), in Yamagata prefecture. Japenese Journal of Applied Entomology and Zoology, 16: 75-78.

Schreiber, A., R. Wirth, M. Riffel, H. Van Rompaey. 1989. Weasels, civits, mongooses, and their relatives: an action plan for the conservation of mustelids and viverrids. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN.

Tatara, M., T. Doi. 1994. Comparative analyses on food habits of Japanese marten, Siberian weasel, and leopard cat in the Tsushima Islands, Japan. Ecological Research, 9: 99-107.

Yanai, T., A. Tomita, T. Masegi, K. Ishikawa, T. Iwasaki. 1995. Histopathologic features on naturally occuring hepatozoonosis in wild martens (*Martes melampus*). Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 31: 233-237.

Yoshiyuki, M., M. Mikuriya. 1974. Some habits of the Japanese marten, *Martes melampus melampus* (Wagner 1840). Journal of the Mammalogical Society of Japan, 6: 39-42.
2008/12/14 13:58:17.148 US/Eastern

To cite this page: Barthen, B. 2003. "Martes melampus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed December 16, 2008 at - Discount Domain Registration - Make Money Now! - Make a Friend in Japan! - My Blog, Photos, and Videos


Shiba - Inu

The Shiba Inu (柴犬, Shiba Inu? also called the Shiba Ken) is the smallest of the six original and distinct breeds of dog from Japan.[1]

A small, agile dog that copes very well with mountainous terrain, the Shiba Inu was originally bred for hunting.[1][2] It is similar in appearance to the Akita, though much smaller in stature.

Inu is the Japanese word for dog, but the origin of the prefix "Shiba" is less clear. The word shiba usually refers to a type of red shrub. This leads some to believe that the Shiba was named with this in mind, either because the dogs were used to hunt in wild shrubs, or because the most common color of the Shiba Inu is a red color similar to that of the shrubs. However, in old Japanese, the word shiba also had the meaning of "small", thus this might be a reference to the dog's small size. Therefore, the Shiba Inu is sometimes translated as "Little Brushwood Dog" - Discount Domain Registration - Make Money Now! - My Blog, Photos, and Videos

Kiso - Japanese Horse


The Kiso horse has inhabited Japan for about one thousand years and has in the past been an indispensable aid for farm use, transportation, and power. Exact origin of the Kiso and other ancient horse breeds of Japan is uncertain. They are believed to be descended from either the plateau horses of Central Asia or the Mongolian horses of the grasslands.

Japan uses horses for military purposes as well as in agriculture and transportation. In the twelfth century, the warrior Yashinaka Kiso reportedly had 10,000 horse soldiers. In the Edo era (1600-1867) there was again emphasis on military use. Kiso canyon belonged to the Owari feudal clan. Records from this time regarding the ancient types have been a valuable aid to modern horse breeders. The government of the Kiso area considered the Kiso horse a strategic material, and produced many; numbers again reaching more than 10,000.

During the Meiji period (1868-1903), Japan fought against several foreign countries. Because Japanese horses are generally small in size, the authorities discouraged breeding purebred Kiso and encouraged a crossbreeding program between the Kiso and larger western horses. During the period surrounding World War II a government program was administered for the purpose of castrating purebred Kiso males. Consequently, almost all Kiso stallions were castrated. The Kiso was effected more dramatically by this administration plan because the breed had traditionally been considered a good military horse. Other Japanese horses were primarily used for agricultural purposes.

The existence of the Kiso breed is mainly due to a single horse kept as a holy horse at a Shinto shrine and therefore had not been castrated. The horse, named Shinmei, and another Kiso mare named Kayama gave birth to Dai-san Haruyama in 1951. This horse became the last of the pure Kiso. The present Kiso breed is a back-bred breed among the descendants of Dai-san Haruyama and other Kiso descendants. There are some ranches in Japan which specialize in Kiso or other Japanese horses.

The Kiso horse has a temperament quite similar to the Tarpan. They have been described as being similar in appearance to the Przewalski or the Mongolian horse. Some Kiso have dorsal stripe, which is one criteria for measuring the pureness of the horse as a Kiso. - Discount Domain Registration - Make Money Now! - My Blog, Photos, and Videos

Amami Rabbit - A Living Fossil in Japan

The Amami Rabbit (Pentalagus furnessi; Amami: ʔosagi), or Amami no Kuro Usagi 奄美の黒兔 (, Amami no Kuro Usagi 奄美の黒兔?), also known as the Ryukyu Rabbit, is a primitive dark-furred rabbit which is only found in Amami Ōshima and Toku-no-Shima, two small islands between southern Kyūshū and Okinawa in Kagoshima Prefecture (but actually closer to Okinawa) in Japan. Often called a living fossil, the Amami Rabbit is a living remnant of ancient rabbits that once lived on the Asian mainland, where they died out, remaining only on the two small islands where they survive today.

The Amami Rabbit has short legs, a somewhat bulky body, rather large and curved claws, and is active at night. Its ears are also significantly smaller than those of other rabbits or hares. A forest-dweller, it apparently only has one (or sometimes two) young at once, which the mother digs a hole in the ground for them to hide in during the day. At night, the mother opens the entrance to the hole, while watching for predators (like venomous snakes), and then nurses its young, after which it closes the hole with dirt and plant material by thumping on it with its front paws. Amami Rabbits sleep during the day in hidden places, such as caves. Amami Rabbits are also noted for making calling noises, which sound something like the call of a pika; this makes them unique as most rabbits cannot make calling noises.

Unfortunately, the Amami Rabbit is endangered, because of hunting, which ended when Japan gave the rabbit legal protection in 1921, but also because of deforestation and killings by dogs, cats, and other animals introduced by humans, which continue today. In particular, mongooses released by island residents to kill poisonous snakes have killed a large number of Amami Rabbits. Deforestation is also very harmful to the rabbits, especially as they are asleep during daylight, and will often be killed without being able to flee.

In July 2008, the Amami Rangers for Nature Conservation Office (奄美自然保護官事務所) obtained a photograph of a feral cat carrying an Amami rabbit corpse (previously, other evidence, such as Amami rabbit bones and fur found in cat or dog droppings had already been found), prompting discussions on better ways to control pets. - Discount Domain Registration - Make Money Now! - My Blog, Photos, and Videos


Japanese Deer - The Sika Deer (Cervus nippon)

The Sika Deer (Cervus nippon) is a member of the deer family Cervidae that inhabits much of East Asia. It is found in mixed deciduous forests to the north, and mixed subtropical deciduous and evergreen forests to the south. The Sika Deer are closely related to Red Deer, Central Asian Red Deer and elk.

Sika deer are found from the Ussuri region of Siberia south to Korea, Manchuria and Northern and Southern China, with a possibly isolated population in Vietnam. It is also native to Taiwan and Japan and were possibly introduced to some smaller western Pacific islands. The largest race of Sika deer (found in the colder north) are Dybowski's Sika Deer (C. n. dybowskii) of Manchuria and Ussuri Region, and the Hokkaidō Sika Deer (C. n. yesoensis) of Hokkaidō Island in Japan. The Kerama Sika Deer (C. n. keramae) of the Ryukyu Islands is one of the smallest, and unlike other subspecies, has the whole body (including the rump patch) dark brown. The Formosan Sika Deer (C. n. taioanus) is rather large for an island form being larger than the Kerama Sika Deer and similar in size to deer from Southern China. There are several geographically separated subspecies, but due to the long history of the velvet antler trade (for medicinal values) and farming of Sika deer for antler productio!
n in much of Turkestan, China, Mongolia, Manchuria, and the Ussuri Region, the integrity of these subspecies is questionable as many populations have already mixed gene pools. Other deer raised for antler trade were Thorold's Deer (Cervus albirostris), various Central Asian Red Deer (Cervus affinis) subspecies, and Wapiti (Cervus canadensis) subspecies. Sika deer are known to escape deer farms and many of the so-called wild sika deer populations in Central and Southern China are descendants of those that have escaped and have re-established themselves in the wild. In Taiwan, both Formosan Sika Deer and Formosan Sambar Deer (Cervus unicolor swinhoei) have been farmed for velvet antlers. The only exceptions that may have integrity as a subspecies are possibly the Dybowski's Sika deer of Manchuria and Ussuri region, and the sika deer subspecies that survive in Japan, Ryukyu Islands, and Taiwan. Japan is the only country in Eastern Asia where sika deer were not farmed for velve!
t antler.
Dybowski's Sika Deer (C. n. dybowskii)
Tame deer wandering the streets of Miyajima, Japan

Sika Deer are widespread in Japan, and readily become tame; at one time they were regarded as sacred. The largest wild populations are in the northern island of Hokkaidō. Following Japanese settlement of Hokkaidō in the latter half of the 19th century, the deer there were hunted almost to the point of extinction, and were reduced to a few small populations. Legal protection put in place in the mid 20th century was followed by rapid population recovery from the 1950s to the 1980s. In the absence of the natural predators (wolves, now extinct in Japan), some hunting is now encouraged in order to stabilize the population and limit the agricultural damage done by the deer. The present Hokkaidō deer population is still concentrated in the eastern half of the island, and many deer that frequent other parts of the island migrate back to this area during the winter months.

Deer are also present in the more populated islands of Japan: for example, in the ancient capital city of Nara, as well as the sacred island of Miyajima, they wander at will among the temples, and are much photographed (and fed) by tourists. In other parts of Asia, the deer have also been extensively hunted, and legal protection has been less effective, so that several populations and subspecies are now endangered.
Formosan Sika Deer (Cervus nippon taioanus)

Sika Deer have been introduced into a number of other countries including Australia, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Britain, France, Ireland, Jolo Island (south of the Philippines), New Zealand, Poland, Morocco and the United States (Maryland and Texas). In many cases they were originally introduced as ornamental animals in parkland, but have established themselves in the wild.

In Britain and Ireland several distinct wild and feral populations now exist. Some of these are in isolated areas, for example on the island of Lundy, but others are contiguous with populations of the native Red Deer. Since the two species sometimes hybridise, there is a serious conservation concern.

Across its original range, and more intensively in many countries to which it has been introduced, the sika is regarded as a particularly prized and elusive sportsman's quarry. In Britain, Ireland and mainland Europe it has been noted that sika display very different survival strategies and escape tactics from the indigenous deer. They have a marked tendency to use camouflage and concealment in circumstances when Red deer, for example, would flee; and have been seen to squat and lie belly-flat when danger threatens in the form of human intrusion. Hunters and control cullers have estimated that the sika's wariness and "cleverness" makes it three or four times more difficult to bring to bag than a Red or Fallow deer. It has also been widely remarked that sika are much more tenacious of life, and harder to kill with a rifle bullet, than the native deer of Europe and North America. In the British Isles sika are widely regarded as a very serious threat to new and established wood!
lands, and public and private forestry bodies adopt policies of rigorous year-round culling, generally with little effect.

Among aficionados of venison, sika flesh is regarded as one of the very finest and most flavourful of all game meats at the dinner table.

Sika (しか or 鹿) listen (help·info), romanized shika in the Hepburn system, is the Japanese word for deer in general. The full Japanese word for Cervus nippon is nihonjika (にほんじか or 日本鹿).

Dybowski's sika deer (Cervus nippon dybowskii) and Formosan sika deer (Cervus nippon taioanus) are highly endangered and possibly already extinct in the wild. They can be found in several zoos and are being kept alive by a captive-management program.

The Sitka Deer is a subspecies of Black-Tailed Deer and Mule Deer and therefore, a different species. - Discount Domain Registration - Make Money Now! - My Blog, Photos, and Videos


Japanese Snow Monkeys

Japanese Macaque
Common Names: Snow Monkey, Nihon zaru
Genus: Macaca
Species: fuscata

Many of us are familiar with images of monkeys soaking up the watery warmth of a hot spring in the midst of a bone chilling, wintery landscape. These are the Snow Monkeys, or Japanese macaques of Japan, living at latitudes of 41° to 31° north of the equator, the only monkeys to live that far north in the world.

The Japanese macaque lives throughout Japan, with a range covering subtropical lowlands to sub alpine regions. The great differences in habitats have made it necessary for the macaques to adapt to large seasonal changes. In the central and northern areas of Japan the temperatures can range from 5° F (-15° C) and snow more than 1 meter deep in the winter, to 73.4° F (23° C) in the summer.

Although they can be found in forested hills, highlands and mountains, there are four different areas in Japan that the Japanese macaques are located. Their northern limit is on the Shimokita Peninsula in the northwest part of Honshu Island. Conifers and deciduous trees are the dominant vegetation here. In the central region of Japan the monkeys can be found in the Nagano Mountains near a number of natural hot springs heated by the Shiga Kogen volcano. The third area is on the seaside of the island of Oshima, just off the Hanto Peninsula. In these northern areas they experience both winter and summer seasons and the macaques will travel to different home regions in the different seasons. The southern most limit of their habitat is on the southern island of Yaku-Shima. Subtropical and temperate plants and broad-leaved evergreen forest can be found here. More macaques are found here than anywhere else in Japan.

The Japanese macaque has a very human-like, naked, red face, and expressive eyes. It is a medium sized, stocky monkey, about 2 to 4 feet long, and weighs from 22 to 66 pounds. It has a relatively short tail, less than a quarter of the head and body length. The males are on the average much larger than the females, which is something called "sexual dimorphism". It has a thick, furry coat ranging from gray to brown or mottled in color. In the winter the northern tribes of macaques will grow a heavy insulating coat to maintain their body temperature. During the summer they will have a lighter coat. Like most monkeys, the Japanese macaques have a fully opposable thumb. They use all four legs to get around, but will also walk just on their hind legs when they're holding something with both hands. It has large cheek pouches for storing food in when it forages.

A troop of macaques consists of about 20 to 30 individuals, and is usually led by a dominant male who decides where the group goes and defends it against intruders. Two or three male sub-leaders help him out by keeping order in the group. Troops will have several males and females in it. Rank among males in the troop is very stable and has to do with the age of the males. High-ranking males tend to be more sociable than lower ranking males, who live on the outskirts of the troop. Males will leave the troop they were born into when they reach sexual maturity, and travel between different troops throughout their lives. The troop will spend its days foraging for food and sunning themselves. Young macaques spend a lot of time playing. In the winter they will sleep in deciduous trees to prevent accumulated snow from falling on top of them.

There is a strong social bond between the members of a troop, especially among the females. Females remain in the same troop, usually their entire life. There is a strict dominance hierarchy in both males and females. The offspring of high-ranking females will often inherit their mother's rank as they get older, with daughters gaining the same rank as their mothers. Interestingly, an alpha male will sometimes gain his rank because his mother was a high-ranking female. Younger offspring are ranked higher than older siblings, so it doesn't pay to be the first-born of a high-ranking mother. Macaques are very sociable, and will groom each other and share the job of raising their young.

Females become sexually mature at around 3.5 years, and males at 4.5 years of age. Both males and females have many partners in a breeding season, but interestingly enough, it's the female who picks who she wants to mate with. She tends to make her selection according to the rank of the male and how long he has been in the troop. She avoids choosing males whom she has mated with in the past 4-5 years, thereby avoiding inbreeding.

Macaques throughout Japan have a peak birth period from April through July, and May through September. A female is pregnant for about 5 to 6 months. She will spend less time grooming, moving and foraging, and more time resting on the day of the birth. She will have one baby at a time, forming a strong mother-infant bond that lasts for a lifetime. The infant depends on its mother for a very long time, not being weaned until well into its second year, which is very stressful for the mother. Older siblings will still be dependent on their mother while she nurses the infant, learning what to eat, where to sleep and how to raise infants from her.

An infant will begin to toddle at about 20 days, and start climbing at about one month. At this time it will also begin to ride on its mother's back instead of clinging to its mother's abdomen. It's rather difficult in the beginning but the infant soon is able to balance on its mother's back with her help.

The Japanese macaque are omnivorous, but primarily frugivorous. Their diet consists mainly of fruits, seeds, young leaves and flowers, insects, and tree bark. The variety in their diet is mostly due to the seasonal changes and their large habitat range. In the spring and summer, young leaves, flowers and shoots are eaten. In the fall they eat mostly fruit. Their winter diet consists mainly of buds and bark. They will also eat crabs, and bird eggs. Most of their foraging is done on the ground.

Scientists have begun to rethink their ideas on culture within monkey society in a large part because of the Japanese macaques. It has been observed that the macaques invent new behaviors and pass them on by immitation. In 1963 a young female named Mukubili waded into a hot spring in the Nagano Mountains to retrieve some soybeans that had been thrown in by the keepers. She liked the warmth and soon other young monkeys joined her. At first the behavior caught on only with the young macaques and their mothers. Over the years the rest of the troop took up the behavior, which now finds shelter in the 109° F (43° C) hot springs to escape the winter cold. Young monkeys have also learned how to roll snowballs, which doesn't have any survival purpose, but with which they have a lot of fun, much like human children.

Potato washing by a troop in Koshima was first started by a one and a half year old female named Imo. Researchers would put sweet potatoes along the beach to bring the monkeys out in the open. Imo found that she could get the sand off the potato better by dipping it into the river water, rather than brushing it off with her hands, like the other monkeys were doing. Her brothers and sisters imitated her first and then their mother. Over time the entire troop took to washing sand off potatoes with river water. At first they simply washed the sand off, but Imo soon found that the potatoes tasted better if seasoned with salt water from the ocean. They began to bite into the potato then dip it into the sea water to season it and bite again. Imo was a bit of a genius for a monkey because she also discovered wheat washing. She would make a ball of wheat and sand and throw it into the water. The wheat would float up to the top where she could pick it up and eat it without the sand.

The Japanese macaque is listed as threatened by the U.S. ESA. The subspecies Macaca fuscata yakui from the island of Yaku-Shima, is listed as endangered by the IUCN. In 1990 there were estimated to be around 35,000 to 50,000 Japanese macaques, with the numbers declining.

The main cause for the decline of the Japanese macaque population is the destruction of their habitat. This forces the adaptable monkey to find its food outside of its habitat where it can. An estimated 5,000 macaques are killed each year, despite being a protected species, because they raid nearby farms for food and thereby destroy the farmer's crops. Troops of macaques have invaded villages and terrorized its inhabitants by chasing after them and snatching food from children's hands. It was decided to build the Nagano macaques their own hot springs when they began to invade nearby hot tubs and human spas. Creating feeding stations in an efforts to save the macaques and prevent them from raiding nearby farms, has backfired to a certain extent, as the macaque populations in those areas have artificially soared.

The Japanese macaque, or Nihon zaru (Japanese monkey) have a long history in Japanese arts and history. The Japanese are very fond of their monkeys and do everything within their power to keep them wild and save them from extinction. - Discount .JP Domain Registration - My Blog, Photos, and Videos

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Japanese River Otter

Description: The length is about 80cm,the weight is about 5-11kg. The body color is dark brown and between the throat and abdomen is white. The hands and feet which are short and are webbed. The body form is streamlined. The head which is flat has small ears. The mustache is very thick and it has a long and big tail.

Habitat: They live between rivers and the seashore and dig the hole there. This animal is nocturnal, and it is resting in the roost, and acts alone fundamentally from the evening to early morning, and food is taken in a river or sea daytime.

Population(before and now): Although there was capture of 1000 or more animal, before, 8-20 animals live now.

Reasons for its decline in population: Water pollution by agricultural chemicals, chemical cleaner, waste water from a factories. It make the food protect quantity drop. Until 1960's there was a lot of hunting.

Efforts to save this animal: People of Susaki city, Kochi are protecting Japanese river otters. People of a Shinjokawa valley protect and breed Japanese river otter and the "group which protects the nature and the otter Shinjokawa" were launched. This animal and many other endangered animals were protected in 2000 by the "The law about endangered animals and plans protection". - Buy Japan Domain Names


Hokkaido Wolf

The Hokkaido Wolf (Canis lupus hattai (蝦夷狼, Ezo-ōkami)), also known as the Ezo Wolf, is one of the two extinct subspecies of Canis lupus that have been called the Japanese Wolf. The other is the Honshū Wolf.

This endemic wolf of Japan occupied the island of Hokkaidō. The Hokkaido Wolf was larger than the Honshū Wolf, more closely approaching the size of a regular Gray Wolf.

The Hokkaido Wolf became extinct during the Meiji restoration period. The wolf was deemed a threat to ranching (which the Meiji government promoted at the time) and targeted via a bounty system and a direct chemical extermination campaign. Hokkaido experienced significant development during this period and the Hokkaido Wolf also suffered from resulting environmental disruption.

The wolf was afforded a benign, rather than malignant, place in Japanese mythology and religion: the clan leader Fujiwara no Hidehira was said to have been raised by wolves, and the wolf is often symbolically linked with mountain kami in Shinto (the most famous example being the wolf kami of Mitsumine Shrine in the town of Chichibu in Saitama Prefecture) on Honshū island.

Sightings of the Hokkaido Wolf have been claimed from the time of its extinction to the present day, but none of these have been verified. - 1.400,000+ Japanese Looking to Make Friends - Strange Japan News

Nomura Jellyfish - Giant Jellyfish

Nomura's Jellyfish (エチゼンクラゲ, echizen kurage, Nemopilema nomurai) is a very large Japanese jellyfish. It is in the same size class as the lion's mane jellyfish, the largest cnidarian in the world. The width of these jellyfish are slightly larger than the height of most full grown men.

Growing up to 2 meters (6 feet 7 inches) in diameter and weighing up to 220 kilograms (ca. 450 pounds), Nomura's Jellyfish reside primarily in the waters between China and Japan, primarily centralized in the Yellow Sea and East China Sea where they spawn.

While stings of this large jellyfish are painful, they are not usually toxic enough to cause serious harm in humans. However, the jellyfish's sting has been reported as fatal in some cases by causing a build-up of fluid in the lungs. As a precaution, fisherman encountering these jellyfish wear eye protection and protective clothes. To date there have only been nine reported deaths from the Nomura's sting.

The most recent problems first became obvious in late August 2005 when Japanese fishermen fishing for squid, anchovies, salmon and Japanese amberjack began finding huge numbers of the jellyfish in their nets. The areas that were hardest hit were the Sea of Japan coasts of Fukui and Shimane prefectures in western Japan.

Often, the weight of the echizen kurage broke the nets or crushed fish in the net. In the worst cases, as many as 1000 Nomura's jellyfish have been trapped in one net. Many fish trapped within the net with the jellyfish that survived were too poisoned and slimed by the tentacles to be of commercial value.

In some places, jellyfish density is reported to be "one hundred times higher" than normal, without explanation. There was a previous spike in the population recorded in 1958 and in 1995. There have been widely disseminated theories as to the cause of the population increase, but no definite explanation. One such theory is that development of ports and harbors along the Chinese coast have provided an increase in structures for the Nomura larvae to attach themselves to. Another is that the seas off of China have been inundated with nutrient-rich run-off from farms and industry. Yet another is that China has over-fished their waters and reduced the populations of the jellyfish's natural predators, which fed on the larvae while they are still zooplankton. Yet another cause may be China's new dam, the Three Gorges Dam. On the Yangtze River, the Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydroelectric project, has increased the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen in the waters off China!
, creating an ideal breeding ground for Nomura's jellyfish. A final possibility is global warming which would cause the heating up of the seawater and encourage jellyfish breeding. The water could become more acidic, making it it a more suitable environment for jellyfish survival. Jellyfish also have the ability to take in oxygen directly from their skin. This allows the jellyfish thrive in the oceans growing dead zones.

The problem with combating the jellyfish is that when they are under attack or killed, they release billions of sperm or eggs which connect in the water and attach to rocks or coral formations. when the conditions are favorable, the creatures detach from their home millions at a time and grow into more jellyfish.

In an attempt to utilize the jellyfish in a productive manner, coastal communities in Japan are doing their best to promote jellyfish as a novelty food, sold dried and salted; students in Obama, Fukui (Japan) have managed to turn them into tofu, and jellyfish collagen is also reported to be beneficial to the skin.

The jellyfish population has become such a substantial problem for Japan that it has led the government to form a committee to combat the problem. They have been creating kill-nets to catch and destroy the jellyfish before they can do any more harm, yet this typically only results in the aforementioned survival tactic of releasing their sperm and eggs. - 1.400,000+ Japanese Looking to Make Friends - Strange Japan News

Honshu Wolf

Honshū Wolf

Honshū Wolf
Canis lupus hodophilax
Canis lupus hodophilax
Conservation status
Extinct (1905)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Canidae
Genus: Canis
Species: C. lupus
Subspecies: C. l. hodophilax
Trinomial name
Canis lupus hodophilax
(Temminck, 1839)

* hodopylax (Temminck, 1844)
* japonicus (Nehring, 1885)[1]

The term "Japanese Wolf" (狼 or オオカミ, Ōkami?) refers to two extinct subspecies of the Gray Wolf. The subspecies that the name 'Japanese Wolf' usually describes is the Honshū Wolf (Canis lupus hodophilax (日本狼 or ニホンオオカミ, Nihon Ōkami?)), which occupied the islands of Honshū, Shikoku, and Kyūshū in Japan. The other is the Hokkaido Wolf. The Honshū Wolf is thought to have become extinct due to a combination of rabies, which was first reported in Kyūshū and Shikoku in 1732, and human eradication. The last known specimen died in 1905, in Nara Prefecture.

Some interpretations of the Honshū Wolf's extinction stress the change in local perceptions of the animal: rabies-induced aggression and deforestation of the wolf's habitat forced them into conflict with humans, and this led to them being targeted by farmers.

There are currently eight known pelts and five stuffed specimens of the Japanese Wolf in existence. One stuffed specimen is in the Netherlands, three are in Japan, and the animal caught in 1905 is kept in the British Museum. Owing to its small size (the Honshū Wolf is the smallest known variety of wolf, probably due to allopatric speciation / island dwarfing) the Honshū Wolf's classification as a subspecies of the grey wolf is disputed.

The wolf was afforded a benign, rather than malignant, place in Japanese folklore and religious traditions: the clan leader Fujiwara no Hidehira was said to have been raised by wolves, and the wolf is often symbolically linked with mountain kami in Shinto (the most famous example being the wolf kami of Mitsumine Shrine in the town of Chichibu in Saitama Prefecture).

Sightings of the Japanese Wolf have been claimed from the time of its extinction to the present day, but none of these have been verified. - 1.400,000+ Japanese Looking to Make Friends - Strange Japan News

Japanese Bobtail Cat

The Japanese Bobtail is a breed of cat with an unusual 'bobbed' tail more closely resembling the tail of a rabbit than that of an ordinary feline. The short tail is a cat body type genetic mutation caused by the expression of a recessive gene[1]. Thus, so long as both parents are bobtails, all kittens born to a litter will have bobtails as well. Unlike the Manx and other cat breeds, where genetic disorders are common to tailless or stumpy-tails, no such problem exists with the Japanese Bobtail.

The Japanese Bobtail is a small domestic cat native to Japan and Southeast Asia, though it is now found throughout the world. The breed has been known in Japan for centuries, and there are many stories, as well as pieces of ancient art, featuring it.

Japanese bobtails may have almost any color, but "Mi-ke" (三毛, mike?, lit. "three fur", composed of white, black and brown coloring) or bi-colors are especially favored by the Japanese. Much like any other breed, the colors may be arranged in any number of patterns, with van and calico being common among purebred cats, though other colorations are also accepted.

The earliest written evidence of cats in Japan indicates that they arrived from China or Korea at least 1,000 years ago. In 1602, Japanese authorities decreed that all cats should be set free to help deal with rodents threatening the silk-worms. Buying or selling cats was illegal, and from then on, bobtailed cats lived on farms and in the streets. Japanese Bobtails thus became the "street cats" of Japan.

The Japanese Bobtail is mentioned in Kaempfer's Japan. First published in London in 1701/02, it is the first book written by a Westerner about the flora, fauna, and landscape of Japan. Engelbert Kaempfer, a German doctor, wrote: "there is only one breed of cat that is kept. It has large patches of yellow, black and white fur; its short tail looks like it has been bent and broken. It has no mind to hunt for rats and mice but just wants to be carried and stroked by women."[citation needed]

The maneki-neko ("beckoning cat"), a Japanese Bobtail seated with one paw raised, is considered a good-luck charm. A maneki-neko statue is often found in the front of stores or homes. In 1968 the late Elizabeth Freret imported the first three Japanese Bobtails to the United States from Japan. Japanese Bobtails were accepted for Championship status in CFA (Cat Fanciers Association) in 1976.

There is a legend in Japan about why the Japanese Bobtail lost its tail. It states that a cat was warming itself too close to a fire, and set its tail on fire. It then ran through the town, burning many buildings to the ground. As punishment, the Emperor decreed that all cats should have their tails cut off.

Bobtails could have also surged after the legend of the bakeneko, or nekomata, a cat that when its tail grew too much, became a double-tail, and the cat would get powers like talking, walking on its back legs, and shape shifting. The nekomata could cause massive disturbances and even resurrect dead people. Japanese people may have started cutting their cat's tails to avoid them becoming a bakeneko.

Japanese Bobtails usually have litters of three to four kittens with newborns that are unusually large compared to other breeds. They are active earlier, and walk earlier. Affectionate and generally sweet-tempered, they enjoy supervising household chores and baby-sitting[citation needed]. They are active, intelligent, talkative cats with a well-defined sense of family life. Their soft voices are capable of nearly a whole scale of tones; some people say they sing. Since they adore human companionship they almost always speak when spoken to, and sometimes carry on "conversations" with their owners. [2] [1] Because of their human-oriented personality they are easy to teach tricks and enjoy learning things like walking on a harness and lead, and playing fetch.[1]

A similar breed of cat is in development in the United States as breeders attempt to perfect the "American Bobtail Cat" that would have a tail half the length of other breeds, though there has not been definitive progress in getting a new breed recognized yet.

While rare, Japanese Bobtails, especially predominantly white specimens, are more likely than other breeds to express heterochromia, or differing iris colors. One eye will be blue while the other is yellow (though in Japan, blue is referred to as silver while yellow is referred to as gold). This trait is popular and kittens displaying this "odd-eye" feature are usually more expensive.


Iriomote Wildcat - A Living Fossil in Japan

Iriomote wildcat
The Iriomote wildcat (Prionailurus iriomotensis; Japanese: 西表山猫 Iriomote-yamaneko), is a wild cat about the size of a domestic cat that lives exclusively on the Japanese island of Iriomote. It is considered a "living fossil" by many biologists because it has not changed much from its primitive form. The Iriomote cat is one of the most threatened species of cat (formerly considered a subspecies of the leopard cat), with an estimated population of fewer than 100 individuals. It has dark brown fur, a bushy tail, and it is not able to sheathe its claws. When it was discovered in 1967, it was regarded as a survivor of an extinct line of felines and placed in a separate genus Mayailurus as Mayailurus iriomotensis. It was then assigned as a subspecies of the leopard cat, before being elevated to the species level again within the same genus of the leopard cat, Prionailurus. This view is still being discussed: some authorities still claim to classify the Iriomote cat as a separate species, since it looks quite different from the mainland leopard cat. It is known as Yamamayaa ("mountain cat") or Yamapikaryaa ("mountain sparkling-eyed") or Pingiimayaa ("escaped cat") to the islanders of Iriomote. The Iriomote cat has dusky or greyish brown, dark spots in dense longitudinal rows that mark its body. The spots tend to coalesce into bands. Five or seven dark stripes run along its neck, and two white lines run from the corners of each eye across the cheeks. Thick and bushy, the tail is relatively short; spotted near the base it is ringed toward the tip. The backs of the rounded ears are dark with white central spots. The anterior upper premolar is absent. Approximately the same size as a domestic cat, the Iriomote cat has the characteristic elongate body, short legs and low-slung build of a predator which forages in thick undergrowth.

Females average body size is 1'7" excluding the tail and males are slightly larger at 1'9" or 1'10" excluding the tail. Both sexes are otherwise the same, with overall head and body length range of 38-65 cm (15-26 in). Height at shoulders is 25 cm (10 in), tail length averages 16-45 cm (6.3-18 in) and weight averages 3-7 kg (6.6-15.5 lbs). The Iriomote cat is solitary but home ranges of individuals overlap. Male home ranges vary from 2.1 to 4.7 km², and those of females 0.95 to 1.55 km².

Hunting day and night both in trees and on the ground, the Iriomote cat is an opportunistic generalist predator. It is said to be more nocturnal in summer than winter. During the day it will hide in rock crevices or tree cavities, leaving to hunt at dusk. In captivity, it is an enthusiastic swimmer, playing in the water. Known to cross rivers in the wild, it probably also catches fish and crabs in the water. Hunting is usually a slow stalk finishing with a quick rush to kill. Captive animals lose weight in winter and spend more time urine marking. This is seen as preparation for mating. They are more frequently seen in pairs in winter and often heard to vocalize. Males often fight. They meow and howl like domestic cats. Mating is believed to occur from February to March and September/October.

After a gestation of about 60 days, two to four kittens are born in a den in a rock crevice or hollow tree. The kittens mature much more rapidly than domestic cats, being left on their own when they are about three months old. In one study 50% of the prey biomass was identified as mammalian in origin, with about 25% of the mass bird and 20% reptilian. In summer, the cat's emphasis on mammalian prey seems to change, with more birds and reptiles taken. Numerically, insects are important, making up one third of the total numbers of items found in scats with 39 species of beetle have been identified in them. The Iriomote cat is known to take fruit bats, black rats, wild pig, night herons, quails, rails, pigeons, doves, scops owls, kingfishers, robins, thrushes, crows, box turtles, skinks and amphibians. More than 95 species of animal have been identified from its feces. The 292 square km island of Iriomote is at the southern end of the Japanese Ryukyu Islands, which are 200 km east of Taiwan (24° 15´-25´ north Latitude and 123° 40´-55´ east Longitude). The island is mountainous and covered in broadleaf, evergreen, subtropical rainforest with dense mangroves along the estuaries. The highest mountain is only 470 metres.

This endemic cat is found, near water, all over the island, including beaches and cultivated land. It only avoids the most heavily populated areas. Unfortunately it shows a preference for the coastal forest areas which are mostly outside the protected area of the island and through which the island's road has been constructed. Barely 100 individuals survive due to habitat destruction and persecution/over-hunting. Although in 1977 the Iriomote cat was declared a National Japanese Treasure, pressures of development pose a very serious threat. One third of the island has been declared a reserve where the trapping of the cat for any reason is strictly prohibited. However, the species continues to decline. Izawa (1990) reported that the density of the cats was relatively low inside the National Park because they prefer forest edges, coastal areas and lowlands, most of which are outside the protected areas. There is no captive breeding population.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) has listed the Iriomote cat as Endangered, on the verge of extinction.[2] As the cat is not substantially traded, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has only declared that international commerce must be strictly regulated, and has placed it on Appendix II.

Feral domestic cats compete with the Iriomote cat for food, but at the moment there appears to be no problem with the two species interbreeding. Hybridization would dilute the gene pool of the Iriomote cat and could be a disastrous long-term threat to the integrity of the species. Proposals have been made to eradicate all feral cats on the island.

The Japanese Environmental Agency set up feeding programmes for the native cat. Since 1979 domestic chickens were provided at 20 feeding sites. However, this has caused problems as the cats now regard farmer's flocks as a natural food resource. In 1983 the Iriomote cat began to attack domestic chickens at village houses. This conflict is obviously very undesirable. The meat of the cat is considered to be a delicacy on the island and a significant number have also been killed on the roads. Despite these problems, many of the inhabitants of Iriomote are proud of "their" cat.


Where are the bees going?

Where are the bees going?
Published: Thursday, March 13, 2008 6:58 PM CDT
Honey may soon be more valuable than oil. Scientists worldwide are concerned about the disappearance of honeybees. Their concerns are well founded.

Bees do a lot more for the food chain than provide honey. Beyond that, they are also important to the overall environment.

The United States Department of Agriculture reported that 22 states are reporting vanishing bee populations. Appearing before Congress, a member of the California State Beekeepers Association said about 40 percent of his 2,000 colonies have died. Nationwide, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that there are 25 percent fewer beehives than during the 1980’s. This has caused an impact among beekeepers since they now number half of what they previously have been.

What is causing the disappearance of bees? Agricultural experts are largely mystified. During winter many bees usually die. However, that is not necessarily the case now. According to many experts bees are just plain disappearing. Some scientists are blaming climate changes. Another possible reason, say others, could be the varroa mite, which feeds on honeybees. Some agricultural experts say new diseases may be claiming the bee population. At any rate, a full explanation is still illusive, but concern is mounting.

From an economic standpoint, our pocketbooks are going to suffer a shortage, along with the bee population. Food prices could skyrocket because of the disappearance of the honeybee. Not only the price of a jar of honey, but other foodstuffs as well. A news item crossed my desk recently that Haagen-Dazs, the big ice cream maker, said the price of their product could be affected. The Nestle Corporation owns haagen-Dazs, and company officials said honeybees contribute about 40 percent to its 60 ice cream flavors. A company official said many of the ice cream flavor ingredients come from California, so it is hoped solution to the honeybee disappearance can be found soon. The firm has given a large scientific donation to the University of California, Davis to help find the answer.

There are many food products that rely on bee pollination. One is the California almond crop, which contributes over two billion dollars to the economy. Another is apple. Actually the disappearance of the bee population is not really a new problem. France has been concerned about a decreasing bee population for a generation. Also some Middle East nations have been affected. Even Iraq has noticed a change and some blame the effects of war such as burning powder affecting the bee population.

One of the biggest concerns is the environment. Some scientists fear an elimination of a complete species, the honeybee, or maybe bees in general. Bees are vital for the pollination of plants and flowers. Not just honey would be affected, but the future of many plants would be in jeopardy. This could affect general world health, not just food prices but also the ecosystem in general. Numerous scientists speculate not only would the bee species become extinct but also various other animal life as well.

At this time the answer to the problem seems far off. But the United States congress is looking into the matter, along with leaders here in California. There may be multiple causes, consisting of both the actions of mankind and perhaps even nature. But the loss of honeybees, even a temporary loss, can cause problems for us all.