Photo/IllutrationA kitten dines on an Amami spiny rat on Amami-Oshima island. (Provided by Kazuki Yamamuro)

  • Photo/Illustraion

AMAMI-OSHIMA ISLAND, Kagoshima Prefecture--A cat that kills a rat is usually rewarded by its owner. But the killing of a rat here by five felines has sparked outrage among conservationists.

The Amami spiny rat, which Japan has designated as a protected species, is known to exist only on this island in the world.

Conservationists were already deeply concerned about attacks by cats on endangered species living on a mountain here before the cats killed the rat known for its spiky hair in late September.

Early on Sept. 26, Kazuki Yamamuro, who is engaged in nature preservation on Amami-Oshima island for the prefecture, said he came across what appeared to be four kittens and one of their parents feasting on the rat on a forest road in Uken Village.

The road is near the 694-meter-high Mount Yuwandake, nominated as a World Natural Heritage site.

The 58-year-old resident of Yamato Village was out conducting research on a rare species in the area and filmed the scene.

“I want people to know the actual damage that the cats are causing,” Yamamuro said.

The cats took off when he stepped toward them, he added.

But they have likely made the area their home.

According to a study done on the damage to local wildlife in the area, the possibility is high that stray cats have settled and bred in the mountains here.

Numerous attacks have been reported by cats on Amami rabbits, which is designated a specially protected species by Japan, Okinawa long-haired rats, an endangered species, rare birds and frogs.

The Environment Ministry has started capturing the cats in the mountains in July 2018. By the end of September 2019, it had caught 87 cats.

Most of the cats rounded up were given away and none of the felines were killed.

“Pet cats aren't supposed to live in the wild,” Yamamuro said. “The cats have to be captured to prevent indigenous species from being attacked.”