The leopard was declared extinct in 2013 after it was not spotted at all since 1983.
A leopard thought to be extinct has been spotted in the wilderness. The Formosan clouded leopard, which is called so because of the unique pattern on its fur was said to be seen by locals in southeastern Taiwan. Rangers from the Alangyi Village reported seeing, what they think was the rare leopard, hunting goats on a cliff in Taitung County's Daren Township, reported Taiwan News. The sighting is significant because this means, that the leopard which was declared extinct in 2013 after not being spotted at all since 1983 may just be alive and doing pretty well in the wild.
Taitung District Office of the Forestry Bureau has responded by saying that this was a very important development and is now actively working on confirming the sighting. Additionally, another group reported seeing one leopard near their scooters before it ran off up a tree. The elusive wild cat has been very hard to spot, let alone trap. My Modern Met reported that the village chief of the Paiwan Tribe, Kao Cheng-chi, confirmed that rangers have been on alert since June 2019 to try and spot the leopard. The tribe has also decided to take the responsibility of keeping hunters out of the forest because it is an animal sacred to them.
“I believe this animal still does exist,” National Taitung University’s Department of Life Science professor Liu Chiung-hsi told a local Taiwanese news channel, according to Mongabay. The professor also went on to say that it was not surprising that the leopard was not spotted for so long because they are very vigilant creatures who will avoid humans at all costs. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) cannot provide definitive information about the status of the animal due to a general lack of information. The government of Taiwan, however, still has the clouded leopard on its list of protected animals.
Chiang Po-Jen, a zoologist stated, "A forest with clouded leopards and a forest without clouded leopards mean something different. A forest without clouded leopards is...dead." He is of the belief that there is very little chance of the leopard still existing in Taiwan at all. Currently, Asia is home to two species of the clouded leopard, Neofelis nebulosa (clouded leopard), which is found across the Asian mainland, from the Malay peninsula to the Himalayan foothills of Nepal, and Neofelis diardi (the Sunda clouded leopard), found on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, according to South China Morning Post. Both these species are at risk of extinction. They have rarely been seen in the wild; not even those who study them have seen them.
Chiung-hsi had spoken to Bunun hunters in the late 90s and found out that they had captured the leopards recently. But they had burned its body fearing persecution under the Wildlife Conservation Act. Huang Chun-tse, deputy director of the Forestry Bureau's Taitung District Office said eyewitness accounts need to be taken seriously and have to be positively verified, especially since there had been no sightings of the animal in decades. He regarded the news of the sighting as something the bureau "greatly values." He also encouraged scientific investigation into the matter while also respecting the tribe's duty of protecting their resources.