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Japan’s Rare Island Wildcat and World Heritage Site Nomination

Since Charles Darwin’s voyage to the Galápagos Islands in 1835, ecologists have known that island ecosystems are irreplaceable treasures of nature. The central and southern Ryūkyū Islands of Japan are no exception. These scattered islands host a tropical Eden rich in unique biodiversity. However, these islands also face serious environmental threats. In February 2019, Japan nominated four of these islands (the Islands) for inscription on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) World Heritage List. In addition to the islands of Amami Ōshima, Tokunoshima and northern Okinawa, Japan’s nomination included Iriomote Island, located off the coast of Taiwan. This remote island is home to one of the world’s most endangered felines, the Iriomote cat.