A species of leopard thought to be extinct for more than three decades has been spotted by several witnesses in Taiwan.
Village rangers were exploring the wilderness of southeast Taiwan recently when they spotted what they believed to be the Formosan clouded leopard.
The leopard was reportedly hunting goats on a cliff in Taitung County’s Daren Township when rangers spotted the big cat, however these sightings have not been confirmed.
As reported by Taiwan News, a team of rangers has been in operation in the area since last summer, in the hope that the leopard would be spotted.
The President of the Association of the Austronesian Community College Development Association and village chief of the Paiwan Tribe, Kao Cheng-chi, described how the Alangyi Village set up the team of rangers in June last year. They have patrolled ‘traditional’ areas ever since.
In the months since, two different groups of rangers claim to have spotted the Formosan clouded leopard – or what the Paiwan people refer to as Li’ uljaw – while on duty.
Alangyi Village Conference Chairman, Pan Chih-hua, confirmed rangers had spotted the leopard in an interview with CNA, but said he couldn’t disclose the exact time and location of the sightings.
One ranger described seeing one of the leopards climbing a tree before scrambling up a cliff to hunt goats, while another described seeing a leopard running past a vehicle before scurrying up a tree and going out of sight.
Because of the importance of the sighting, Cheng-chi said members of the Alangyi Village held a tribal meeting to further investigate the sightings of the leopard; the Taitung District Office of the Forestry Bureau said they are actively working on confirming the sightings.
Another aim of the tribal meeting was to prohibit outsiders from hunting in the area, while village elders asked the Forestry Bureau to stop logging and other disruptive activities while the investigation was ongoing. Community leaders also authorised fund-raising efforts to aid in the investigation.
The deputy director of Taitung Forest District Office, Huang Chun-tse, said the agency is working on confirming the sightings, emphasising a scientific investigation is needed.
The last official sighting of the Formosan clouded leopard was in 1983. However, it wasn’t officially declared extinct until 2013, after zoologists completed a 13-year-long survey which hoped to find the elusive feline.
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