Rare clouded leopard spotted by Taiwan villagers 5 years after it was declared extinct

It was officially declared extinct in 2013.

Ashley Tan | May 10, 03:02 pm


You might have seen a very recent story of a group of men posing with a dead clouded leopard allegedly caught in Malaysia.

Men in M’sia smile & pose with dead clouded leopard, a vulnerable species due to poaching

Here’s another story about clouded leopards, albeit a more positive one.

Spotted by village rangers

The Formosan clouded leopard, an extinct subspecies of the clouded leopard, made a surprise appearance in the remote wilderness of Southeast Taiwan in Taitung, Taiwan News reported on February 23, 2019.

The Formosan clouded leopard can only be found in Taiwan.

Illustration of the Formosan clouded leopard in 1862. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The species was last sighted in 1983, following which a 13-year survey from 2001 to 2013 by zoologists from Taiwan and the U.S. failed to yield a single sighting of the animal.

It was officially declared extinct in 2013.

However, in 2018, patrolling rangers from the Alangyi Village claimed they spotted the creature hunting goats on a cliff.

Within the same month, another group of rangers said they saw the leopard dart past a scooter before it proceeded to scurry up a nearby tree.

The exact time and location of the sightings were not disclosed to protect the species.

Sightings considered ‘inconclusive’

An ecologist from the National Taitung University’s Department of Life Science, Liu Chiung-hsi, affirmed the recent sightings, saying that he believes that “this animal still does exist”.

In fact, according to Liu, Bunan hunters admitted in 1998 that they had caught Formosan clouded leopards but burned the animal bodies for fear of prosecution under the Wildlife Conservation Act.

Despite that, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the agency that maintains the Red List of Threatened Species, told Mongabay that general lack of available information about the sightings makes it difficult for them to conclusively confirm the accuracy of the sightings. 

According to Liu, it is likely that the leopard had not been seen in a long time due to its vigilance and elusive habits.

Formosan clouded leopard specimen in National Taiwan Museum. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Indigenous tribe to stage intervention

According to Taiwan News, a tribal meeting was held by members of the Alangyi Village to further investigate the sightings. The village also decided to prohibit outsiders from hunting in the area.

The Alangyi Village also requested for the Taitung District Office of the Forestry Bureau to cease logging in the area, and other activities that could potentially disrupt the environment.

Nevertheless, while Huang Chun-tse, deputy of the Forestry Bureau, acknowledged the need for the village to protect their resources and biodiversity, he also said that a proper scientific investigation needs to be carried out.

Huang added that the bureau will actively consult the tribal members during the investigation.

Top photo from Wikimedia Commons

About Ashley Tan

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