Saturday, January 28, 2012

Big In Japan: Iriomote Cat.

Japan is notorious for many things: A hard language (which really ISN'T that hard), animated porn, sushi, giant robots, more animated porn, and decent beef, to name a few. One of the lesser talked-about aspects (usually within animated porn) is catgirls. Catgirls have come up a few times on this blog, usually as "what has science done?" examples. That, and the author finds them kinda adorable.

For today's animal, however, the catgirl serves a different purpose: Ichigo, the almost nauseatingly-cute catgirl above, is based off of a very rare Japanese wildcat. After looking into it a bit more, the author of this blog found that Ichigo just barely looked like the Iriomote Cat, but making a tribute to such a rare animal was still a lovely gesture. Apparently the same cat also made a cameo in Azumanga Daioh with more accurate markings. 


And here's a real one.

The Iriomote Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis iriomotensis) is a small wildcat that does, indeed, look a lot like a regular housecat.As its name indicates, it is found exclusively on the (tiny!) Japanese island of Iriomote. It is an opportunistic predator that can usually be found near water. (Unlike domestic cats, they love water and catch their own seafood.) The Iriomote Cat looks a little strange, but it'd be easy enough to confuse one of these kitties for somebody's pet.

The Iriomote Cat may look like a normal house cat, but don't let size fool you. The Iriomote Cat is, genetically, probably one of the first felids to ever walk the earth. It has weird teeth and non-retractable claws as well. It has been called a "living fossil" and sports the status of "national treasure" along with tomorrow's creature. Precious cat is precious.

Unfortunately, the Iriomote Cat is getting more and more elusive. There are less than 250 individuals alive today, meaning that it definitely merits its "Critically Endangered" status.  That number is only shrinking as feral cats mate with these wild cats, diluting the gene pool. Human habitation and road-building are also causing problems. There is no captive breeding population, so, like the panda, this cat has an extremely low chance of surviving past this century. Maybe an Iriomote Catgirl is not such a bad idea after all...just watch out for those claws!

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