Could the extinct clouded leopard return to Taiwan?

By Ryan Kilpatrick, December 22, 2014

0 0

First, the bad news: after an exhaustive 13-year search, scientists concluded two years ago that the Formosan clouded leopard was well and truly extinct. 

The Taiwanese subspecies of the clouded leopard, with a tail significantly shorter than its cousins in the Himalayan foothills, China and Southeast Asia, was revered by the aboriginal Rukai people, and hunting them was considered a taboo.

When the short-lived Democratic State of Taiwan (i.e. Republic of Formosa) was declared in 1895, the blue-sky-and-yellow-tiger (lantian-huanghu) flag became the sigil of the new-born nation, underscoring the symbolic importance of the island's wild cats such as the clouded leopard and leopard cat. 

Following Chiang Kai-shek's retreat to the island and its subsequent rapid industrialization, intense overhunting for their furs, compounded by destruction of their forest habitats and a decline in their prey species, led to the clouded leopard's extinction some time in the 1980s. 

But wait, there's good news too: According to Scientific American, "Taiwan has done such a good job slowing deforestation and protecting its other wildlife over the past few decades that the island could once again support populations of leopards." 

Having banned commercial hunting in 1973 and stopped logging in 1991, Taiwan's forests have had time to regenerate, enabling the populations of prey animals to rebound to the point where they could now support the clouded leopard once again. 

Researchers have concluded that 24 percent of Taiwan contains suitable habitat for 500-600 of the big cats, and recent genetic studies have indicated that the Taiwanese variety of neofelis nebulosa were not actually a unique subspecies, and therefore cats from the mainland would not be alien to Isla Formosa. 

While Taiwan's environment has been rapidly improving, however, the opposite has been the case for mainland China and Southeast Asia, which are “undergoing the world’s fastest regional deforestation rates” according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.  

As mainland populations become increasingly vulnerable, Taiwan could therefore serve as a badly needed refuge for the clouded leopard, benefiting the island's ecology and natural heritage as well as the species' future. 

more news

Snow leopard spotted in Gansu for first time since 2006

Over half of the world’s potential snow leopard habitat is in China, which is home to its largest population.

Qinghai zoo announces the birth of rare snow leopard twins

First arctic foxes, then pandas, now snow leopards

Tibetans got 'super-athlete' gene by mating with now extinct species of human

Tibetan super gene derived from mating with Denisovans, a human relative that became extinct 40,000-50,000 years ago.

Adorable leopard cubs spotted at Shenyang Zoo

These two one-month old leopard cubs have been spotted playing, feeding and sleeping at Shenyang Forest Wildlife Zoo in China's northeastern Liaoning province.

55 sheep killed running away from leopard

A farmer has lost over 80,000 yuan after 55 of his sheep died when the animals stampeded in fear from a leopard which had entered their grazing grounds near Jiyuan, Henan province.

This Day in History: China Ends the Eunuch Era

Finally banned in 1924, the system had endured for over 3,000 years and through 25 dynasties.

This Day in History: China Star Li Ning Shines at 1984 Olympics

Defying a Soviet Union-led boycott, Li Ning earns the nickname Prince of Gymnasts.

This Week in History: The Marco Polo Bridge Incident

On July 7, 1937, the cataclysmic event that led to the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War.

0 User Comments

In Case You Missed It…

We're on WeChat!

Scan our QR Code at right or follow us at thatsonline for events, guides, giveaways and much more!

7 Days in China With thatsmags.com

Weekly updates to your email inbox every Wednesday

Subscribe

Download previous issues

Never miss an issue of That's Magazines!

Visit the archives