13 year search for Taiwan's top predator comes up empty-handed

Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com
May 01, 2013



After 13 years of searching for the Formosan clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa brachyura), once hopeful scientists say they believe the cat is likely extinct. For more than a decade scientists set up over 1,500 camera traps and scent traps in the mountains of Taiwan where they believed the cat may still be hiding out, only to find nothing.

"There is little chance that the clouded leopard still exists in Taiwan. There may be a few of them, but we do not think they exist in any significant numbers," zoologist Chiang Po-jen said, as reported by Focus Taiwan.

Captive clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa). The Formosan clouded leopard was a subspecies of this animal . Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Captive clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa). The Formosan clouded leopard was a subspecies of this animal . Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
The Formosan clouded leopard was a subspecies of the clouded leopard. Found only in Taiwan, the medium sized-cat (weighing about 20-45 pounds) was the top predator until hunting for its skin and widespread deforestation likely led to its extinction. Only one predator is bigger than the clouded leopard on the island, the Formosan black bear (Ursus thibetanus formosanus); but the bear, which is currently listed as Endangered, is an omnivore.

The last records of Formosan clouded leopards occurred in the late 1980s. Scientists have floated the idea of reintroducing the clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) from mainland Asia back onto the island, but no official moves have been made. For the Rukai, an indigenous tribe in Taiwan, the Formosan clouded leopard was a spiritually-important animal; they believed deities would often take the form of clouded leopards.

Two clouded leopard species are found in Asia. One survives on mainland asia, Neofelis nebulosa. While another species, the Sunda clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi) is found in Sumatra and Borneo. Both are listed as Vulnerable and are threatened by poaching for skins and deforestation.













Related articles

Will Taiwan save its last pristine coastline?

(01/05/2012) Voters in the January 14 Taiwanese presidential election will decide the fate of the island’s last pristine wilderness known as the Alangyi Trail. Amongst the three candidates, only one (Tsai Ing-wen from the Democratic Progressive Party) may support the conservation of Alangyi Trail and its coastline. One of the top domestic stories of 2011 were the efforts by the Pingtung County government, indigenous tribes, and NGOs to preserve the Alangyi Trail, according to the Taiwan Environmental Information Center. Alangyi is now a major issue reflecting steadily growing environmental concern amongst the Taiwanese, but its fate is sadly uncertain.


Earthquake triggers decline in a frog species

(12/03/2007) In 1999 a 7.3 earthquake struck Nantou County at the center of quake-prone Taiwan. The earthquake caused considerable damage: over 2,000 people died and just under 45,000 houses were destroyed. It was Taiwan's strongest quake in a hundred years. The quake also devastated a subpopulation of riparian frogs, Rana swinhoana, which had been under scientific study for three years prior. This devastation allowed scientists the opportunity to study the population changes in a species affected suddenly and irretrievably by natural disaster.







CITATION:
Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (May 01, 2013).

13 year search for Taiwan's top predator comes up empty-handed .

http://news.mongabay.com/2013/0501-hance-formosan-leopard.html