‘Extinct’ Clouded Leopard Spotted for the First Time in 37 Years


The Formosan Leopard is a subspecies of the Leopard, and they are only found on the island of Taiwan in Far South East Asia. But if reports are anything to go by, the species may not be extinct after all.

A group of rangers reported the sighting of the clouded Formosan Leopard. Sighting animals that have evaded prying eyes for years is nothing new; however, what makes the Formosan Leopard an exciting discovery is that it has not been sighted since 1983, after which it was added to the category of animals to have gone extinct in 2013.

Special Leopard Species only found in Taiwan

Clouded Leopards were an indigenous species only found on the island of Taiwan, and they have existed here since the 13th century. They were famous for their attractive coated fur, but while this was a testament to the beauty of nature, it also attracted one main problem. As the trade in fur coats grew in popularity, these leopards became victims of poaching all through the 19th and 20th centuries.

Researchers and conservators believed that the clouded Leopard was hunted to extinction because they have not been sighted since 1983. This was the consensus opinion held by Formosan natives and the science community for generations, but this notion is now being challenged. Some rangers confirm seeing a Formosan Leopard hunting goats in Formosa’s hilly terrain deep in the forest.

Neofelis Nebulosa

The scientific name of the Taiwanese clouded Leopard is Neofelis Nebulosa Brachyura whose habitat was mainly around the foothills of the Himalayan mountains. As for the name Formosa, the Island of Taiwan wasn’t always called Taiwan, but its original name, Formosa.

Despite conservators listing it an endangered species, many people believed that it survived poaching and that some of them still lived in parts of the Island’s rugged wilderness. Furthermore, the new wildlife protection laws put in place by the authorities have led to a revival of many of the Island’s endangered species. Perhaps, the clouded Leopard happens to be one of them.

When is an animal declared extinct?

An animal is declared extinct if it has not been sighted by any known source for 50 years. However, what makes an animal extinct or who designates it as such is still a subject of debate in the zoological community. However, according to animal experts, it takes an extensive chain of coordinated work to classify the status of animals.

In recent times, researchers have started using data analysis to track rare animal populations across the world. However, even though the technology is improved over the years, there are still notable “Lazarus Cases.”

A Lazarus Case is a situation where a species formerly designated as extinct is sighted in the wild. In the case of the Formosan Leopard, the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species has not assessed the Clouded Leopard as extinct yet, so maybe there is hope.

Rangers allege that they saw one hunting goats off the cliffs of Taitung County in 2019, while a different group claimed to have seen one near its scooters before it fled. We hope both accounts are true. If they are, it renews hopes that the clouded Leopard may not be extinct after all.

Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of The Sized delivered to your inbox daily.