The Formosan Clouded Leopard. Photo: Youtube

Taiwanese authorities are currently investigating claims of the sighting of a native Taiwanese leopard that is believed to have been extinct for years.

Huang Chium-tse, the deputy director of the Taitung Forest District Office said the Formosan clouded leopard was last officially seen in the 1980s, Taipei Times reported.

People living in the Alangyi Village in Taitung City, however, claim that they saw a clouded leopard in June 2018. A community patrol said that they saw the leopard, known as Li’uljaw, jump from a tree onto a mountain goat.

A village meeting was held in January to probe the sightings as well as to discuss preventing outsiders from hunting in the area.

The head of the Alangyi tribal conference Pan Chihuahua said villagers had seen a Formosan clouded leopard in the wild but would not disclose any details of the sightings.

Liu Chiung-hsi, a professor at the National Taitung University said the leopard is a very vigilant animal and cannot be trapped easily, which is why it should not be a surprise that it has not been seen in more than 20 years.

He also added that while he was studying the hunting culture of the Bunun people in 1998, several Bunun people confessed that they had captured some of the leopards but burned their bodies to avoid being penalized under wildlife laws.

While the authorities welcome the news, Huang says they will be taking things with a grain of salt and that a thorough scientific investigation is needed before any conclusions can be drawn.

The last confirmed sighting of the Formosan Clouded Leopard was in 1983. Last year in July the animal was featured in a documentary called Extinct or Alive on the Animal Planet cable channel.

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