Tuesday

Giant salamander found walking along road in Kyoto

Giant salamander found walking along road in Kyoto

Tuesday 30th June, 03:05 PM JST

KYOTO —

A 105-centimeter-long giant salamander was found walking along a riverside road in Kyoto by a motorist Tuesday and was temporarily taken into protective custody by police. According to police, a man driving his car along the Kamogawa River that flows through the city spotted the salamander at around 5:50 a.m. and dialed the 110 emergency phone number to summon police, who rushed to the scene. The huge aquatic salamander was then brought to a police station in Kita Ward and held there for several hours in a water tub before being released into a branch of the same river. Kyoto University professor Masafumi Matsui told Kyodo News he was concerned to learn that the giant salamander in question, which resembles a hybrid, was released without proper examination and into a different waterway from the main course of the river along which it was found. The Kamogawa River, the amphibian expert explained, has a serious problem with hybridization between Japanese and Chinese giant sala!
manders, and there is concern the problem could spread to other habitats in Japan.

In March, Matsui proposed to relevant authorities that a system be put in place to prevent just what happened Tuesday. Any animals found should be identified by experts prior to release, he said. The Japanese giant salamander, which can reach more than 150 cm in length and weigh over 20 kilograms, is highly protected species in Japan where it is designated as a ''special natural monument.'' The river-dwelling amphibians are entirely aquatic. But on rare occasions they may leave the water to circumvent manmade obstacles built in the river that prevent them from moving upstream, either to breed or after being washed downstream by heavy rain. There have even been cases in which the animals have been hit by cars and killed. Asiatic giant salamanders are the world's largest amphibians. The Japanese species can be found in cool streams and rivers in central and western Honshu, as well as in parts of Kyushu and Shikoku islands, while the slightly larger Chinese species in!
habits central China. A much smaller relative, the hellbender, lives in the eastern United States.


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Monday

ツシマヤマネコ, Leopard Cat of Tsushima Island, Tsushima Yamaneko

Time is against rare leopard cat on Tsushima island

BY SHINGO FUKUSHIMA

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

2009/5/25

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TSUSHIMA, Nagasaki Prefecture--Twenty minutes' walk uphill through a forest in the southern part of Tsushima island, a surveillance camera stands and stares into the growth, waiting for signs of movement.

It has been nearly two years since a camera in the Uchiyama district here caught an image of a Tsushima yamaneko (leopard cat)--a national natural treasure that had previously been thought by some to have died out in this part of the island off the western coast of Japan.

But experts remain quietly hopeful of seeing the specimen or others like it again, and eventually reviving the population of the endangered animal throughout the area. The cat is ranked as 1A in the Red Data Book of Japan, which means it is critically endangered.

In the 1960s, there were about 250 yamaneko living across the whole island. In the northern part, which is separated by a canal, the population has dwindled to roughly 100 as a result of damage to its habitat, traffic accidents and attacks by predatorial wild dogs.

The cat was thought to have died out in the south by 1984. But in a startling discovery 23 years later, a camera photographed a yamaneko on separate occasions in the same district near the town of Izuhara. Environmental researchers surmise it was the same cat.

Following the "rediscovery," the Environment Ministry's Tsushima Wildlife Conservation Center, Nagasaki Prefecture and the city of Tsushima embarked on a joint mission to survey the yamaneko population in the southern region. They installed 27 infrared cameras in and around the Uchiyama district to monitor movement.

Shusaku Moteki, a 29-year-old staffer at the center, says his heart races when he removes films from the cameras and sends them to be developed each month. To his ongoing disappointment, however, he ends up staring at endless images of Tsushima martens, weasels, scaly thrushes, pale thrushes and oriental turtle doves.

"Once the camera captured some Self-Defense Forces members carrying rifles as they went on a training exercise," he laughed.

Moteki also searches for the cat's droppings, which have a particular smell, size and shape. If he finds fecal matter that can't be easily identified, he sends it away for DNA testing.

The Environment Ministry plans to add more cameras to the search, but given there have been no sightings since 2007, it is feared the number of the cats in the district is extremely small.

Experts are divided over how best to protect the fragile population of the subspecies variety.

Shinichi Hayama, director at Nippon Veterinary and Life Science University in Tokyo, advocates releasing northern yamaneko to the south.

"If this situation continues, yamaneko in the south will be extinguished. We don't have much time," he said.

On the other hand, Masako Izawa, professor of animal ecology at University of the Ryukyus in Nishihara, Okinawa Prefecture, urges caution.

"The population in the north is declining. If the number drops further, yamaneko in both parts of the island will face extinction altogether," she said. "Yamaneko in the south could have a larger territory, which might make it hard to find them. We have to make a more concerted effort to find them first."

The Environment Ministry has been supervising a project to artificially breed the species in captivity in the nation's zoos. It launched the project at Tsushima Wildlife Conservation Center and Fukuoka City Zoological Gardens in Fukuoka, before extending it to zoos in Yokohama, Tokyo and Toyama. The project now includes about 30 yamaneko.

Joining the undertaking this fiscal year is Sasebo City Subtropical Zoological and Botanical Gardens in Nagasaki Prefecture. Director Mitsunori Egashira is ambitious about its chances: "We will work hard to protect rare animals in cooperation with other zoos."

The ministry is considering building a facility in Tsushima where it can train yamaneko born in captivity to catch prey before returning them to the wild in the southern part.

The 2007 discovery could influence its decision.

If yamaneko bred in captivity are released into the habitat of their wild counterparts, the territorial disputes that would inevitably result could create an ecological imbalance.

"It's good news that yamaneko have been found again in the south after all this time it was thought to have died out there," says an expert. "But that means new problems now have to be considered."(IHT/Asahi: May 25,2009)


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ツシマヤマネコ, Leopard Cat of Tsushima Island, Tsushima Yamaneko

Tsushima leopard cats scarce

Kyodo News

The wild cats on Tsushima Island off Nagasaki Prefecture are facing extinction, as only 80 to 110 of them are believed still existing in the wild.
News photo
Not a vegetarian: A Tsushima leopard cat approaches food while cautiously watching a camera at Fukuoka's City Zoological Garden. KYODO PHOTO

Zoo experts and local environmentalists are trying to breed Tsushima leopard cats in zoos and other facilities but are finding it difficult because the animals are stressed and won't become tame.

"They don't adjust to being around humans," said Eiji Nagao of Fukuoka's City Zoological Garden. "The cats won't approach us, and we can't even touch them."

The cats are on the government's Red List of animals on the verge of extinction and are also designated as a protected species.

The cats' population has rapidly decreased because of human encroachment on their wooded habitat.

The zoo, which started the breeding effort around 10 years ago, currently has 10 Tsushima leopard cats. Another 22 are in facilities in Tokyo, Yokohama and Toyama Prefecture.

Zoo officials are now considering releasing cats raised in captivity into the wild, but the number must reach 100 before this can be done, an official at the Tsushima Wildlife Conservation Center on the island said.

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ツシマヤマネコ, Leopard Cat of Tsushima Island, Tsushima Yamaneko

The Tsushima leopard cat is an endangered wildcat inhabiting Tsushima islands, Nagasaki prefecture. It is regarded as a subspecies of the leopard cat and is thought to have arrived in Tsushima from the Asian continent about 100,000 years ago. The population of the Tsushima leopard cat has been declining mainly due to habitat degradation and road kills. It was designated by the Japanese government as a National Nature Monument in 1971 and as a National Endangered Species in 1994. A conservation project plan was established in 1995 to protect the species, under the direction of the Ministry of the Environment in conjunction with other government agencies.

Glossy-leaved forest is the essential habitat for the Tsushima leopard cat. They often use streams, forest edges, and mountain slopes in relatively lower altitudes (below 200m). They are also found in cultivated areas and even near houses. They prefer to stay where quality of the natural environment remains high.
2. Home Range

 Ecological research using radio-tracking methods have revealed that adult females usually establish a home range of approximately 2km2 and tend to stay in the same area throughout the year. On the other hand, adult males have a larger home range and the size fluctuates seasonally; it can become 7 to 8 times larger than the adult female's home range size, especially in winter due to the mating season.
3. Field signs

 Tsushima leopard cats are rarely seen due to their cautious nature; nevertheless, we are able to find evidence of their existence in the field such as footprints and feces.
Footprints
 Round shaped footprints with four finger pads, and with no claw marks.

4. Reproduction

 The reproductive biology of the Tsushima leopard cat is not fully understood; however, their mating season is thought to occur during February and March. After about two months of gestation, one to three kittens are born in March and April. Kittens become independent from the parents when they become six to seven months old.

■Distribution
 In the 1960s, the population size was estimated to be between 250 and 300 animals. The latest research conducted from 2002 to 2004 shows that the population has decreased to around 80-110 animals, suggesting that the population size and distribution of the Tsushima leopard cat is declining. Recent evidence suggests that the leopard cat has completely disappeared from Shimojima, the south island.
Prey Animals

 Mice form the main part of the leopard cat diet, and are eaten throughout the year. In addition to mice, leopard cats are likely to eat birds during the winter months, and insects in the summer months.

The Tsushima leopard cat is about the same size as a domestic cat.

 Weight: 3-5kgs, Length: 70-80cm. Females are slightly smaller than males.
 They have a fat tail, and the body color is chestnut-brown to cream with indistinct brown spots. You can find a white spot on the back of each ear and a clear brown-white striped pattern on the forehead, the characteristic features of wildcats.
How you can distinguish the Tsushima leopard cat from the domestic cat.

 There are many feral (domestic) cats living in Tsushima other than leopard cats. Since feral cats are often found within the habitat of the Tsushima leopard cat, it is important to know how to distinguish the two from each other. The most significant visible difference is that the Tsushima leopard cat has a white spot on the back of each ear, and the domestic cat does not. Therefore, if you see a cat in the wild with white spots of the back of its ears, you can be pretty certain that you have seen a Tsushima leopard cat!

▲Rounded shaped ears

▲Brown and white strip patterns on the forehead

▲A long fat tail

▲A longer trunk and shorter legs


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Thursday

Hokkaido pony, generally called Do-san-ko

The Hokkaido pony, generally called Do-san-ko as a term of endearment, is an old but rare breed of pony native to Japan.
Contents

The Hokkaido pony is thought to have been brought to Hokkaidō from Honshū by fishermen during the Edo period (1600-1867). The fishermen came to Hokkaido in search of herring and the ponies were used for transportation, but were left in Hokkaido when the fishermen returned home in Autumn. The ponies were expected to survive without assistance in a land with very little vegetation and covered with snow throughout the winter, with the exception of bamboo grass found in the mountains. The fishermen would return in spring with new ponies and would also use the surviving ponies. The enduring strength for which the Hokkaido pony is now known is thought to have been developed in this way.

The Hokkaido pony is considered a descendant of the Nanbu horse, a breed which is thought to have been bred in Tohoku the northern region of Honshū. However, the Nanbu breed no longer exists and there is no definitive information on its history. This is because the Nanbu horse was historically renowned as a military horse and was heavily crossbred during the late 19th century to develop a larger breed suitable for the military. It is thought that the animals brought to Hokkaido by fishermen were considered to be of inferior quality among the Nanbu breed, as the fishermen did not intend to bring them back.

The largest population of this breed is found on the Pacific coast of Hokkaido. They are the most plentiful of the remaining ancient Japanese ponies, numbering at around 2000. Hokkaido ponies are used for heavy transportation in the mountains where trucks and other equipment cannot go. Some ranchers in Hokkaido still winter the horses in the mountains, continuing the breed's hardiness. They feed mainly on bamboo grass and wander around in the mountains in search of it. In spring they return to the ranches without assistance as during this time the bears awaken from hibernation in the mountains and start to prey on the foals.

Breed Characteristics

As in other Japanese breeds, the Hokkaido pony is found in most solid colors, and many are roan. White markings of any kind are rare and not allowed for registration. They stand between 13 and 13.2 hands high (132 to 137 cm). They are very strong for their size and have a willing temperament. They are also used as pleasure mounts or for transportation.


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Noma Pony(野間馬 ノマウマ)

The Noma (野間馬 ノマウマ) is a pony breed from Noma County, Japan. They originated in the 17th century from Mongolian stock, and are the smallest native ponies from that country, standing about up to 10.1 to 10.3 hh. The ponies are used for draft and riding. They are one of the 8 recognized native horse breeds in Japan.

The breed is currently being preserved as local cultural heritage. At one point the population was as low as six. It rebounded to the point that by December, 1988, there were 27 pure Noma ponies. But as of 2008 there are now 84 purebred ponies in existence.

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Misaki Pony(御崎馬/岬馬, Misaki uma)

The Misaki Pony(御崎馬/岬馬, Misaki uma) is a breed of pony that is native to Japan. Like other native horses of Japan, it is believed to have developed from horses brought to Japan from China, with the earliest imports dating back at least 2,000 years.

The breed was first identified in the historical record in 1697 when the Akizuki family of the Takanabe Clan rounded up feral horses and developed a pool of breeding stock. Today, the Misaki is classified as an endangered but "maintained" breed, with only about 100 living animals. This population has remained relatively stable for the past 20 years, up from a low of 53 individuals recorded in 1973.

The Misaki is one of eight breeds considered native to Japan,[1] and lives as a feral horse in a natural setting in a designated National Monument on Cape Toi (also known as Toimisaki) that is located within the municipal boundaries of Kushima at the south end of Miyazaki Prefecture on the island of Kyūshū. The Misaki ponies are a popular draw for tourists in the region and were designated a National Natural Treasure following the end of World War II.


Characteristics

The Misaki is of pony height, and stands between 12.2 and 13.2 hands high at the withers. However it has horse characteristics and proportions. Most individuals are colored bay or black, with the occasional chestnut. White markings are rare.


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Wednesday

The Miyako pony (宮古馬, Miyako uma) is a rare breed of pony originating from Miyako Island, in Japan.

The Miyako pony (宮古馬, Miyako uma) is a rare breed of pony originating from Miyako Island, in Japan.

The Miyako is one of eight breeds considered native to Japan.[1] Miyako Island in Okinawa Prefecture has been known as a horse breeding area for centuries, and small horses have always been found in this area. During and after World War II they were crossed with larger stallions to increased their size to around 14 hands high for farming purposes. They are mostly used as riding ponies and for light draft work.

Around 1955, population of the breed peaked at around 10,000 head, but with the increase of motorization they began to decline. Since 1975 great efforts have been made to preserve the remaining few Miyako ponies, as the breed is of great antiquity. At one point, only seven head were living as of 1983, the population grew to 25 horses by 1993, but had dropped back to 19 by 2001. The breed is protected by the Japanese government with its status listed as "Critical-Maintained."[2]

Miyako ponies are mostly bay or dun in colour and resemble the Mongolian horse.


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Friday

Japanese wolf (ニホンオオカミ)

Hunted to extinction in 1905.

• ニホンオオカミ[日本狼](Nihon ōkami) = "Japanese wolf" (Canis hodophilax)

Jigokudani Yaen-Koen


Jigokudani Yaen-Koen, originally uploaded by manganite.

Nihon zaru (Japanese macaque)


Nihon zaru (Japanese macaque), originally uploaded by colordive.

Jigokudani Yaen-Koen


Jigokudani Yaen-Koen, originally uploaded by manganite.

Yonaguni (Japan horse)(与那国馬)


Yonaguni (horse)(与那国馬)

Yonaguni (horse)

Country of origin: Japan


The Yonaguni or Yonaguni uma (与那国馬) is a breed of horse native to the southwest islands of Japan, specifically Yonaguni Island. It is a small breed of pony height, typically 11 hands (1.15m). It is also very rare, with fewer than 200 individuals known to live in Japan. It is one of eight horse breeds native to Japan.

Japan's Brown Bear


Japan's Brown Bear


Never mess with a big brown bear, especially big brown bears in Hokkaido known in Japanese as higuma. Unlike the bears in Honshu and the rest of Japan, the brown bears in Hokkaido are a different species, as are all of the native mammals on the northern side of the Tsugaru strait (the Blakiston line).

Just as the Tsugaru strait separates Hokkaido from the rest of Japan, it has always provided a barrier. The native mammals of Hokkaido are closely related to those of Sakhalin and the Kurile Islands, as these provided the land bridge between the Asian mainland and what is now Hokkaido. The mammals on the southern side of the strait migrated through the southern land bridges, primarily the Korean peninsula, which is why there are Japanese macaques on Honshu as far north as Aomori, but none in Matsumae or the rest of Hokkaido.

Sakhalin Island currently has an estimated population of about 1,400 brown bears, and it is less than 10 kilometers (16 miles) from the Asian mainland (part of the Russian Far East) at its closest point. It is probable that migrant individual bears cross from the mainland to Sakhalin occasionally across the ice, however hunting in Sakhalin has drastically reduced the bear population. As the sea gap between Sakhalin and Hokkaido is some 40 kilometers (you can sometimes see the southern tip of Sakhalin from Wakkanai in clear weather), there have probably been no immigrant bears since the last major glaciation. Hokkaido covers 77,000 square kilometers (it is approximately the size of Ireland), and is believed to support about 3,000 bears in wild habitat. The current population is much lower than historical levels due to hunting and loss of habitat, and the current population of bears is fragmented due to habitat loss and other human constructions such as the transport infrastructure and extensive urban sprawl in areas such as Sapporo, Otaru and Asahikawa.