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Legend spreading of leopards in Iriomote Island jungle

Date Posted: 2007-12-30

A wild animal is on the prowl on Iriomote Island, and 47 people are now bearing witness they’ve seen a leopard.
The leopard is not indigenous to the Yaeyama Island group, but that hasn’t deterred those who insist the mysterious animal seen both on beaches and in the semitropical natural forests and jungle is not the local wildcat, the Iriomote Yamaneko. People who have seen the animal say it’s bigger than the Iriomote Yamaneko, with some describing it as 80-120 centimeters tall, with a mottled pattern skin and a long tail that touches the ground.
A Shimane University Professor visiting from the mainland last September 14th has provided a crisp description of his encounter with the mysterious animal. Hideo Akiyoshi says he was sitting on the beach, enjoying the calm view of the sea, when he suddenly noticed the animal approaching. When it was less than three meters away, and looking at him, Akiyoshi said he became frightened. “I thought ‘oh my God’, he is going to attach me. I can’t escape.” The animal studied the professor, then padded away.
Akiyoshi told local residents he, too, was sure it wasn’t the Iriomote Yamaneko, which is a designated national monument. “They never come to the beach. They always stay in the deep jungle.” Locals say the animal has “wild shiny eyes”, and one who’s seen it said “I have seen his jumping by accident. I was in the deep jungle to lay bait for a wild pig, when suddenly I saw a leopard looking animal jumping over me in the trees, going from branch to branch.”
Wildlife specialists cannot document the claims, but have begun watching the island for hopes of more sightings.

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