Scientists and environmentalists alike are saying that we are now witnessing the sixth mass extinction on Earth, with mammals and plants disappearing up to ten thousand times faster than they used to.
However, there may still be some light at the end of the tunnel, because every once in a while an “extinct” species makes a surprising return.
From Taiwan With Love
The most recent case surfaced in Taiwan, where local media reported not long ago that the super-rare Formosan clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa brachyura), had been seen by local people in the southeast parts of the country.
The news has taken zoologists around the world by surprise, having in mind that the last official report of an alive clouded leopard dates back to 1983, and conservationists officially declared the elusive cat extinct in 2013.
Reportedly, members of the Paiwan tribe spotted the animal lurking in the wilderness near Daren Township in Taitung County. Taitung District Office of the Forestry Bureau has formed indigenous ranger groups, who are continuously patrolling the area in an attempt to confirm the rear cat’s sighting.
The reports of the leopard’s spotting are divided. Some say that the elusive cat, called Li’uljaw and worshipped as a sacred animal by the locals, was sighted scrambling up a cliff. Other witnesses say it darted across a busy road and swiftly climbed into the crown of a nearby tree.
The local communities appear to be much agitated by the return of the great Formosan leopard. Tribe elders and chiefs have already held a series of meeting in the village of Alangyi Village to coordinate their future actions.
Their campaign appears to be going in two main directions. First, they are appealing to local authorities to crack down on poachers in the area. Equally important are their efforts to seek a permanent ban on logging that threatens the rare cat’s habitat.
A Skilled Predator
A skilled predator as The Formosan is almost impossible to track down or catch. For example, one of the few photos in the world showing a trapper boasting a Formosan leopard pelt dates back to the beginning of the last century.
Professor Liu Chiung-hsi of the National Taitung University Department of Life Sciences has dedicated a significant part of his remarkable scientific career to this rare animal.
Speaking to journalists of the local news agency CNA, he said that some Bunun hunters he interview back in 1998 admitted to having captured Formosan leopards, adding that they’d burnt their bodies fearing prosecution.
Further Research Ahead
Asked about the government’s future actions with regard to the rare cat’s surprising return, local forestry chief Huang Chun-tse highlighted the importance of the local tribes’ efforts to protect its habitat, but emphasized that the authorities will have to carry out further research before they could announce the official return of the Formosan leopard.