Nagasaki: Tsushima Leopard Cat Placed Under Protection Returns to Wild After Recovery from Injury

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Hikari, a Tsushima leopard cat, leaves his cage while warily checking his surroundings on Tsushima Island, Nagasaki Prefecture, on April 22.

TSUSHIMA, Nagasaki — A Tsushima leopard cat has been returned to his natural habitat in Tsushima, Nagasaki Prefecture, after the injured animal was placed under protection and trained at a special facility to catch food and climb trees.

Tsushima leopard cats are found only on Tsushima Island, a remote island in the prefecture, and have been designated as a national endangered species. The animal’s population is estimated to be about 100, with traffic accidents reportedly a main cause of population decline.

The leopard cat returned to the wild recently is believed to have been injured in a traffic accident in July last year. The young cat, which was named Hikari, was found cowering and was taken in by the Tsushima Wildlife Conservation Center. He weighed about 1 kilogram at the time.

To prevent Tsushima leopard cats from going extinct, the Environment Ministry established a training facility on the island to help protected Tsushima leopard cats return to the wild. On April 22, Hikari was released back to the mountain where he had been found after his weight increased to nearly 3 kilograms and it was determined that it was safe for him to live in the wild.

It was the first time a Tsushima leopard cat trained at the facility was returned to the wild.

When the cage door was opened, Hikari looked around warily and then ran to freedom. Staff members of the station saw him off, with one saying, “Run around in nature freely.”