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Wednesday, 4th May 2016
In General Japan News,

Japanese island neuters cats to protect native rabbits

Officials on the island of Tokunoshima in Kagoshima Prefecture have decided to neuter its population of cats in a bid to protect the native rabbits.

The island in south-western Japan is home to some 3,000 felines, which pose a threat to the Amami rabbits that also live there.

It is estimated that there are just 200 of this breed of rabbit on Tokunoshima and they are considered a special national treasure.

Harutaka Watanabe at the Environment Ministry’s nature conservation office on Tokunoshima Island, said: “Domestic cats have a hunting instinct, and they hunt when they become feral.

“There are no carnivorous mammals on the island, so native rabbits are not so vigilant [of being preyed upon].”

Tokunoshima is part of the Amami and Ryukyu island group, which is hoping to be recognised as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

In order to obtain such status, it needs to be seen to be doing all it can to help conserve native and endangered species.

Instead of culling the cats, it is thought that neutering stray ones is a more favourable option.

Three municipalities on the island are involved in the initiative, which sees traps set to capture the cats so that the procedure can be carried out.

Each cat that is caught and neutered has its ear marked before being released back into the wild to help keep track of the animals in the project.

Since the initiative started, 2,200 cats have been neutered and more sightings of Amami rabbits have been recorded.

As well as neutering feral cats, the project also offers the procedure for free to pet cats, as many of these are not kept solely indoors, making them a threat to the rabbits.