In recent years, the Earth has experienced some really tumultuous times. Conservationists say that our planet is undergoing the sixth mass extinction in its history with plant and animal species going extinct at rates of 1,000 to 10,000 times that of the normal cycle.
There are a few rare occasions however when we’re reminded that it’s not too late to save mother nature from impending doom and some reports of a species’ imminent demise can be a little premature.
This appears to be the case in Taiwan. According to Taiwan News, an ultra-rare species of big cat, the Formosan clouded leopard, has been seen for the first time in the wild by a slew of people across the archipelago’s southeast.
Until now, the beautiful leopard hasn’t been officially spotted in the wild since 1983 and was prematurely declared extinct six years ago, in 2013.
Near Taitung County’s Daren Township, the leopard was spotted by tribal authorities patrolling the region to guard sensitive areas.
The rangers first caught sight of the leopard that has gained a mythical and sacred status by the locals, climbing a tree before hurrying up a cliff hunting for its next meal. Another group witnessed the leopard speed past a scooter before scrambling up a tree and disappearing from view.
Local villagers of the Alangyi Village have held tribal gatherings to come up with the most sensible approach to dealing with the sighting of the striking animal.
Village elders are hoping that the sighting will result in a cessation of hunting in the area by tourists and outsiders, while tribal members are lobbying Taiwanese authorities to put a stop to logging and other harmful activities that could jeopardize the land and the animal.
The Formosan leopard is very nimble and known for its speed and agility. It has managed to elude human capture for almost 30 years escaping attempts to trap or kill it.
National Taitung University’s Department of Life Science professor Liu Chiung-hsi told Focus Taiwan News Channel:
“I believe this animal still does exist.”
There have been previous reports of the animal being hunted by the indigenous Bunun people. Professor Liu stated that during investigations of the leopard’s whereabouts, the tribe admitted capturing the animal on several occasions in the late 90s, however in fear of violating Taiwan’s Wildlife Conservation Act they burned the bodies and left no trace.
Surveys of the region by a coalition of Taiwanese and US zoologists between 2001 to 2013, failed to spot the animal, giving all the signs that the animal was no longer there and declared the leopard officially extinct.
You can trace records of the super-rare leopard as far back as the 13th century when indigenous people were documented to have traded the leopard’s pelts in the bustling markets of port cities like Tainan.
If reports are to be believed, the only non-indigenous person to have witnessed a live Formosan clouded leopard was Japanese anthropologist Torii Ryūzō, in 1900.