We’ve all heard of people disappearing and then reappearing over the years, but you don’t hear of many animals doing it! When it comes to feel-good stories, there are not many better than animals we’d thought long gone reappearing from the wilderness unexpectedly. And one recent story that tugged at the heartstrings was that of an extinct leopard which was spotted alive and well in Taiwan!
Out Of The Past
The creature in question was a Formosan clouded leopard, a subspecies that was native to Taiwan but has not been seen in the wild since 1983. In fact, these magnificent beasts were actually declared as officially extinct in 2013! So, imagine everyone’s surprise and consternation when there were reported sightings of the animal as recently as last year.
In fact, this is one of the reasons why many Thai scholars have been so reluctant to officially call the animal extinct, instead preferring to leave it on the ‘endangered species’ list. This is thought to be amid fears of a backlash from the Indigenous community, as well as the significance of the leopard in Taiwan.
There were reports from rangers who claimed to have spotted a cat hunting goats in Daren Township, Taitung County. There were also reports from a group of villagers who apparently had two separate sightings of the animal back in 2018.
These sightings led to a patrol being arranged in the local area, especially as the animal has become a symbol of conservation in Taiwan, and is considered a sacred animal to the local Paiwan tribe. There are also concerns that outsiders may try to hunt them, and steps are being taken to try to prevent this from happening.
The Myth Endures
The Formosan clouded leopard is something of a mythical being in Taiwan, with a rich backstory claiming that nobody outside of the indigenous population has ever laid eyes on one. 1983 was the last reported sighting of the cat. And this is despite a field study carried out, between 1990 and 1993, securing more than 16,000 photos of Dawushan Nature Reserve, with no trace of the animal.
It should be noted that this kind of behavior is not overly unusual for animals. Only recently, a giant tortoise thought extinct appeared on a Galapagos island, having not been seen since 1906! So perhaps this mysterious emergence from the leopard isn’t so mysterious after all.