A leopard species, believed to have been completely extinct, has been spotted in southeast Taiwan for the first time in over 30 years, prompting a push to protect the big cat from hunters and habitat damage. The Formosan clouded leopard was officially declared extinct in 2013, after it had not been spotted since 1983 and a 13-year-long study by zoologists failed to find even one leopard.
However, locals in the southeast Taiwan town of Daren, Taitung, reported seeing the rare cat again in recent months, inspiring a group of rangers to monitor the area. The rangers have now reported two sightings of a group of Formosan clouded leopards hunting goats, and one running up a tree. Now, researchers are coordinating with locals to keep hunters at bay, according to the village chief Kao Cheng-chi.
Exclusive to Taiwan, the dusky-grey Formosan clouded leopard has been designated ‘vulnerable’ since 2008, as extensive logging ate away at the animal’s natural habitat and forced them into the mountains. It’s been a great start to the year for animals presumed extinct. Just last month a species of giant tortoise thought to have disappeared since 1906 was discovered on the Galapagos island of Fernandina.