Endangered Mammals of Japan

A postage stamp showing the Amami rabbit. Editorial credit: Nicescene / Shutterstock.com.

Japan is an East Asian island nation that is located in the Pacific Ocean. The country has many endemic animal species that can only be found in Japan, but unfortunately, many of these mammals are endangered or critically endangered. This article will touch on a few of these mammals and discuss their habitats and ranges, current conservation status, and the major threats that they face.

Some Endangered Species

Amami Rabbit

The Amami Rabbit, scientific name Pentalagus furnessi, is a species of rabbit that is a member of the Leporidae family of rabbits and hares. The habitat of this species is mainly the dense primary forest. However, due to massive deforestation, the species is now usually found in coastal areas covered by cycads, mountainous habitat covered by oak trees, broad-leafed evergreen forests and cleared areas where perennial grasses cover the land. This species is also endemic to the country of Japan and can only be found on the two islands of Amami-Oshima and Tokuno-Shima. These islands are located in the Nansei archipelago that is a part of the Kagoshima prefecture in almost the southernmost part of the country. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, the Amami Rabbit has been listed as an endangered species since 1986 and its current population is decreasing. The major threats that this species faces are from loss of habitat caused by logging and construction, as well as from the introduction of invasive predatory species like the mongoose and feral cats and dogs.

Bonin Flying Fox

The Bonin Flying Fox, scientific name Pteropus pselaphon, is a species of flying fox (fruit bat) that is a member of the Pteropodidae family of megabats. The habitat of this species is forest habitats, with it usually feeding in orchards. This species is also endemic to Japan and is only found on the five islands of Chichi-jima, Haha-jima, Kita-Iwo-jima, Iwo and Minami-Iwo-jima. These islands are a part of the Ogasawara Islands, also known as the Bonin Islands, that are part of the Ogasawara Subprefecture. The Ogasawara Islands are located about 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) south of mainland Japan. According to the IUCN Red List, the Bonin Flying Fox has been listed as a critically endangered species since 2000 and its current population is decreasing. The major threats that this species faces are from deforestation, the disturbance of its roost sites by tourists or construction and accidental mortality due to nets placed to protect fruits.

Iriomote Cat

The Iriomote Cat, scientific name Prionailurus bengalensis iriomotensis, is a subspecies of leopard cat that is a member of the Felidae family of cats. The habitat of this species is mostly in low mountain areas that have sub-tropical evergreen forest. The species is also found in lower elevations with a high-density mosaic of wetland, streams and small hills. Just like the other mammal species covered here, the Iriomote Cat is also endemic to Japan. The species is only found on the southern Japanese island of Iriomote-jima that is part of the Yaeyama Islands in the Okinawa Prefecture. According to the IUCN Red List, the Iriomote Cat has been listed as a critically endangered species since 2008 and its current population is decreasing. The major threats that this species faces are from loss of habitat, mortality from traffic accidents, tourist activity in its habitat and invasive dogs and feral cats.

Protection Of The Endangered Mammals Of Japan

The Amami Rabbit has been declared a natural monument in Japan since 1921, while the Bonin Flying Fox received the status in 1969. The Amami Rabbit also got special natural monument status in 1963, while the Iriomote Cat received protection under it in 1971. These designations have made it illegal to hunt or capture any of these species. In 1999 The Center for Conservation of Amami Wildlife was set up, with the Amami Rabbit also being put under the Japanese Endangered Species Act in 2004. For the Bonin Flying Fox the Minami-Iwo and Kita-Iwo are protected islands and a National Wildlife Protection Area that includes the species' habitat was established in 1980. The Iriomote Cat got listed as a National Endangered Species in 1994 in Japan and as was put as being Endangered on Japan's 2012 national Red List.

Japan's Endangered Mammals

Japan's Endangered MammalsScientific Name
Iriomote Cat
Prionailurus bengalensis iriomotensis
Tshushima (Amur) Leopard Cat
Prionailurus bengalensis euptilurus/euptilura
Bonin Flying FoxPteropus pselaphon
Gloomy Tube-Nosed BatMurina tenebrosa
Muennink's Spiny Rat
Tokudaia muenninki
Amami RabbitPentalagus furnessi
Ryukyu Flying FoxPteropus dasymallus
Mariana Fruit BatPteropus mariannus
Honshu MyotisMyotis ozensis
Frosted MyotisMyotis pruinosus
Endo's PipistrellePipistrellus endoi
Imaizumi's Horseshoe Bat
Rhinolophus imaizumii
Lesser Great Leaf-Nosed Bat
Hipposideros turpis
Sea OtterEnhydra lutris
Steller Sea LionEumetopias jubatus
Tokuda's MoleMogera tokudae
Echigo MoleMogera etigo
Ryukyu MoleNesoscaptor uchidai
Sado ShrewSorex sadonis
Ryukyu ShrewCrocidura orii
Ryukyu Spiny RatTokudaia osimensis
Ryukyu Long-Tailed Giant RatDiplothrix legata
Japanese DormouseGlirulus japonicus

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