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An 'Extinct' Taiwanese Leopard Was Spotted For The First Time In 36 Years

The Formosan clouded leopard was a beautiful animal that was endemic to Taiwan and hadn't been seen since 1983. Or so everyone thought.

Declared Extinct In 2013

Wikipedia | SSR2000

The animal was officially declared extinct in 2013 after a team of zoologists had searched continuously since 2001 and found no sight of it.

Do We Have Proof?

Twitter | @NatureSuperLit

However, the website themindunleashed.com reported that the Formosan clouded leopard has been seen recently near Daren Township in Taitung County. It should be noted that it's unclear whether the picture above that accompanies the article by themindunleashed.com is of the newly spotted leopard or is a file photo.

Spotted In Daren Township

From themindunleashed.com:

"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."

Leopard Supposedly Found Climbing a Tree

Unsplash | Thomas Tucker

Citing Taiwan News, the story adds 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.

Tribal Members Seek End To Logging

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.

People Had A Lot To Say About The Article

"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 @Maranathakurios.

Some In Taiwan Have Never Accepted That It's Extinct

Taiwan News writes that, before the recent apparent sighting, scholars and tribes there had already been hesitant to remove it from the Forestry Bureau's endangered species list, despite the fact that no one had seen one in more than 30 years.

The Formosan Clouded Leopard Is Sacred

One reason people do not want to accept the leopard as being extinct may be because the animal is a symbol for the country and its ecological endeavors. The Formosan clouded leopard is also considered sacred to the Paiwan tribe, according to Taiwan News. The leopard has been a sort of poster child for animals endemic to Taiwan, so removing it from the extinct list could have long-reaching consequences.

"An Embarrassing Problem"

"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.

Dissenting Opinions

Wikipedia | Joseph Wolf

Shia Jung-sheng of the Forestry Bureau's Conservation Department says experts will have to meet and determine whether to delist the animal. The problem is that there is no definite consensus either way on the animal's status.

We Need To See More

Wikipedia | SSR2000

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.