A group of villagers in Taiwan spotted a species of leopard that was believed to have been extinct for 36 years. The village rangers, who were exploring the southeast region of Taiwan, say that they witnessed the Formosan clouded leopard two different times.
While the leopards haven’t been seen since 1983, they were only officially declared extinct in 2013. A team of zoologists from Taiwan conducted a 13-year-long survey from 2001 to 2013 to find the leopard but after failing to spot the animal, that’s when they declared it extinct.
Liu Chiung-hsi, who is a Department of Life Science professor at the National Taitung University in Taiwan, said that he’s not surprised that the leopard hasn’t been seen in so long because it is quite vigilant and not easily trapped. The professor told Focus Taiwan News Channel, “I believe this animal still does exist.”
The rangers have been searching for the leopard (also known locally as Li’uljaw) since last summer. One set of rangers reported seeing the leopards on a cliff in Taitung County’s Daren Township hunting goats. Another group said that they noticed the wild cat close to their scooters before the animal ran up a tree.
Kao Cheng-chi, who is the president of the Association of the Austronesian Community College Development Association, as well as the village chief of the Paiwan Tribe, said that the Alangyi Village set up the rangers last June. In fact, the members of the Alangyi Village held a tribal meeting to talk about the significance of the sighting of the leopard, as well as preventing outsiders from hunting at that location. They also asked the Forestry Bureau to stop logging in that area.
Huang Chun-tse, who is the deputy director of the Taitung Forest District Office, said that they want a scientific investigation conducted into the sightings as they would like to confirm that the leopard that was once thought to be extinct is actually still alive.
The Formosan clouded leopards are exclusive only in Taiwan and were known to have lived on the island for hundreds of years, dating back to the 13th century.