Taiwan: Extinct leopard subspecies allegedly seen by rangers

Formosan clouded leopards were reportedly spotted by rangers in a remote part of Taiwan.

Article by Erik Hoffner.

This week news broke that a Formosan clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa brachyura) was spotted by rangers in a remote part of Taiwan. Officially declared extinct in 2013 after a years-long project to capture one on camera failed, community rangers now say that they saw the creatures twice last year while exploring locations in southeastern Taiwan.

The predator is a subspecies of clouded leopard only found on the island of Taiwan.

“I believe this animal still does exist,” National Taitung University’s Department of Life Science professor Liu Chiung-hsi told Focus Taiwan News Channel.

However, the last official sighting of the animal was in 1983, and when Mongabay contacted the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the agency that maintains the Red List of Threatened Species, a press officer responded that after polling their big cat experts that the general lack of available information about the sighting makes it difficult for them to give a conclusive answer as to whether this sighting could be accurate.

For his part, the professor told Yahoo News it was ‘no surprise’ that the animal had not been seen for a long time, since they are vigilant and avoid human contact.

Clouded leopards are a vulnerable species according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Photo by Rhett A. Butler

The rangers claim to have seen the cats hunting goats on a cliff in Taitung County’s Daren Township. A different group said they saw a leopard near their scooters, before it ran up a tree.

Learn more about Asia’s clouded leopards here, see more of Mongabay’s features about big cats here, and news about endangered animals here.

Banner image: Formosan clouded leopard. Illustration by Joseph Wolf in Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1862

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