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Government to protect wildcats from AIDS

Date Posted: 2006-09-01

A program to protect Iriomote Island cats from an AIDS virus is being reinstated by the Japanese government.

The Environment Ministry says it will reinstate an earlier program established to keep the Iriomote cats from contracting cat AIDS, which are transmitted through contact with infected stray house cats. The Iriomote cat is a native wildcat found only on Iriomote Island of Okinawa Prefecture. Ministry officials say there are only about 100 of the endangered species. The cats, for that reason, have been designated a special national treasure.

The Environment Ministry had conducted a three-year program that captured stray cats and removed them from Iriomote Island, away from the wildcats. That program ended in March, but officials say more catch-and-remove actions are necessary. One veterinarian group says it caught more than 250 stray cats, administered blood tests, then transferred them to an animal shelter on the main Okinawa island. Of those, 24 were infected with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, the cat AIDS virus.

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