• Kyodo

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The Environment Ministry plans to resume a program aimed at protecting the Iriomote cat from so-called cat AIDS, which can be transmitted through contact with infected stray house cats on the island, according to ministry officials and experts.

The Iriomote cat, an indigenous wildcat, is found only on Iriomote Island in Okinawa Prefecture and is considered a rare and highly endangered species. Its population is estimated at only about 100.

The cat has been designated a special national treasure.

The ministry carried out a three-year program that ended in March in which stray cats were captured and removed from the island, but experts say more action is necessary.

A veterinarian group captured 250 strays and sent them to a shelter on Okinawa’s main island after blood tests.

Twenty-four of the captured cats were infected with the cat AIDS virus, officially called Feline immunodeficiency virus.

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