The yamapikarya (not to be confused with the Iriomote cat) is an unknown species of a leopard-like big cat said to inhabit Iriomote Island. Iriomote Island is 289 square kilometres, most of which is covered in a pristine tropical rainforest. The island is home to only one small town on the east coast. The only cat species on the island is the Iriomote cat, a subspecies of leopard cat that was only discovered in the late 60s.
The yamapikarya is significantly larger than the Iriomote cat, being six feet in length, which is more than five times the size. The yamapikarya is described as having a dark tawny coat with large black spots. Yamapikaryas also have unusually long tails. Unlike the terrestrial Iriomote cat, yamapikaryas are said to often climb trees.
There are approximately 47 known yamapikarya sightings, with the oldest starting in the late 40s, corresponding to the first settlements being built on the islands and the end of WWII.
In the summer of 1978, a hunter claimed to have seen a big cat resting upon a branch. Its long tail "hung down like a vine" from the tree. He watched it for several minutes until the leopard-like cat noticed him, and suddenly leapt off the tree and sprinted into the jungle.
In 2003, a man named Mr. Shimabukuro claimed to have encountered a yamapikarya while setting boar traps in a clearing. While walking around the area, he noticed a yamapikarya sitting on top of a boulder. The creature's body was more than three feet long, had spots, and an extremely long tail. Suddenly, the creature bounded down the boulder, landing right next to him, before running away.
On September 14th, 2007, Prof. Ayoshi of Shimane University claimed to have encountered a yamapikarya while collecting samples on a secluded beach on Iriomote Island. Just 10 feet from where he was sitting, a dark-coloured animal walked out of the jungle. Initially, believing it to be a wild boar, he noticed it was actually a leopard-like cat. The animal, which was around six feet long, half of which was the tail, was covered in black spots. The animal stared at Ayoshi for a moment, then walked back into the jungle.
Some have speculated that yamapikaryas are an unknown population of Formosan clouded leopards, a species endemic to the nearby island of Taiwan. If true, they would be the last known surviving population, as Formosan clouded leopards are largely considered extinct on the mainland.
Others believe yamapikaryas are misidentified Iriomote cats, since they are the only known felid on the island. However, they are very different in coat pattern, size, build, and behaviour.