The Formosan clouded leopard was a majestic animal that was endemic to Taiwan and hadn’t been seen since 1983.
That is until now.
Website themindunleashed.com reported that the Formosan clouded leopard has been seen near Daren Township, in Taitung County. It’s also unclear whether the picture that accompanies @NatureSuperLit tweet, and which is referenced in themindunleashed.com, is of the newly spotted leopard or a past file photo.
A team of zoologists searched for the Formosan clouded leopard from 2001 to 2013 and found no sight of it, therefore the leopard was officially declared extinct in 2013.
“This is awesome. But I wonder where they’ve been hiding. They are really, really good at it. Taiwan has beautiful swaths of undisturbed nature, but it’s still a pretty small island,” wrote one of the readers on Twitter.
The story adds that tribal members want to stop the spread of hunting in Taiwan and are lobbying authorities in the country to halt logging, which harms animals’ habitats.
From themindunleashed.com it said, “The leopard had been spotted prowling in the countryside near Taitung County’s Daren Township, where the area’s Paiwan tribal authorities had formed indigenous ranger groups to patrol the region and guard sensitive areas.”
Taiwan News said that the leopard, called Li’uljaw, was spotted climbing a tree, while others saw the animal “dart past a scooter” and then climbed a tree and disappeared. It’s unclear if it’s the same animal in both occasions.
Taiwan News writes that scholars and tribes in that area are hesitant to remove it from the Forestry Bureau’s endangered species list, despite the fact that no one had seen one of it in more than 30 years.
One reason may be because the animal is the country’s symbol. According to Taiwan News, the Formosan clouded leopard is also considered sacred to the Paiwan tribe. The leopard has been a key figure for animals endemic to Taiwan, so removing it from the extinct list could have long-reaching consequences.
“This is an embarrassing problem, and the conservationist community is reluctant to face it or announce its extinction,” said Chao Ren-fang of the Institute of Biology at I-Shou University.
Shia Jung-sheng of the Forestry Bureau’s Conservation Department says experts will have to meet and determine whether to de-list the animal. The problem is that there is no definite consensus either way on the animal’s status.
IFL Science says it’s not completely unusual for an animal to not be seen for years and then suddenly reappear, but more research and sightings may be needed to remove the Formosan clouded leopard from the extinct list.