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Leopard Thought to Be Extinct Is Spotted in Taiwan for First Time in Over 30 Years



Featured Image: The Formosan Clouded Leopard is A Subspecies of the slightly less elusive clouded leopard, pictured here. Found across China and Southeast Asia.

Rangers in Taiwan reported sighting a leopard declared extinct in 2013. The last official sighting of the Formosan clouded leopard was in 1983. Rangers have been patrolling the area since last summer in search of the elusive cat locals claim to have seen.

Village Chief Kao Cheng-chi of the Paiwan Tribe confirmed that tribal meetings were held to discuss the sightings and keep hunters away. Rangers have since spotted the cats hunting goats on a cliff and another group saw one run up a tree close to their scooters.

The Formosan Clouded Leopard is A Subspecies of the slightly less elusive clouded leopard, pictured here. Found across China and Southeast Asia.

Once common in Taiwan, the Formosan clouded leopard has beautiful grey markings was the second largest carnivore in the area and a subspecies of the Himalayan clouded leopard, listed as vulnerable by the IUCN since 2008. They were forced into the mountains when extensive logging diminished their habitat.

Formosan clouded leopard by Joseph Wolf. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1862 (Photo: Public Domain via Wikicommons)

Known as Li’uljaw by the locals, this rare cat is sacred to the Paiwan Tribe and still protected by Taiwan’s Forestry Bureau. The tribe have pleaded with the government to stop the logging to allow the Formosan clouded leopards to return to their natural habitat.

The Taitung Forest District Office hope to confirm the recent sightings and start scientific research on the leopards. Professor Liu Chiung-hsi  of the National Taitung University Department of Life Sciences believe the reported sightings to be true, confirming that they are alert and elusive by nature.

A specimen of Formosan clouded leopard in the National Taiwan Museum c. 2013. SSR2000/Creative Commons

The clouded leopard is not the first “extinct” animal that has been spotted again, recently, the Fenandina Giant Tortoise was spotted at the Galápagos National Park after not being seen since 1906. Here’s hoping the Formosan clouded leopard sighting was indeed accurate.

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