May 10, 2019 08:26 AM EDT
In 1983 was reportedly the last time the Formosan clouded leopard was ever seen and was then declared extinct in 2013. However, recently people all across the region have reported a number of sightings. Residents of the Alangyi Village in Taitung City claim that they saw a clouded leopard in June of 2018.
A community patrol that stated they saw the leopard, known as Li'uljaw, actively hunting for food and witnessed the elusive cat ambushing a mountain goat from its perch. Another group claims to have spotted the clouded leopard when it ran in front of their scooter before quickly climbing to a nearby tree and disappear from sight.
Once the news of the sightings spread throughout the region, locals held a tribunal meeting to discuss their next course of action. Residents are asking for the immediate stoppage of sport hunting within the area, while the more prominent members of the tribe are requesting that Taiwanese officials put a stop to commercial logging and other activities that are potentially harmful to the leopard's habitat, as well as the cat itself. The Formosan clouded leopard has a reputation of being extremely agile, vigilant, and reportedly has the innate ability to effectively elude most humans who attempt to hunt or capture it. Which, undoubtedly, could explain exactly why the cat hasn't been seen for more than 35 years.
Historical accounts of the rare cat date back as far as the 13th century, when indigenous people would trade the leopard's pelts at the busy markets of port cities like Tainan. Many believe that Japanese anthropologist Torii Ryūzō, in 1900, was the only non-indigenous person to have actually witnessed a live Formosan clouded leopard in its natural habitat.
With climate change, experts and wildlife conservationists repeatedly emphasize the Earth is currently experiencing a mass extinction of plants and animals, and maintaining endangered species that are going extinct are up to 1,000 to as much as 10,000 times the natural rate. The reported sightings bring a sense of hope that maybe not all animals that are listed as extinct are actually extinct.
While authorities and local villagers welcome the news, Huang Chium-tse, the deputy director of the Taitung Forest District Office, tells the Taipei Times, that they will be taking things with a "grain of salt" and that a "thorough scientific investigation" is needed before any decisions can be made.
The Formosan clouded leopard was featured on an Animal Planet documentary called Extinct or Alive in July of last year. Taiwanese authorities are currently investigating claims of the sighting.
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