Scientists and conservationists say our planet is going through its sixth mass extinction right now, with species dying out at rates 1,000 to 10,000 times faster than they should.
Despite their dire situation, we choose to think that it is not too late for everyone.
The recent sighting of the Formosan clouded leopard in Taiwan was welcomed by all, as it had not been seen since 1983 and was declared extinct in 2013. These leopard‘s pelts were traded in the crowded markets of port cities like Tainan as early as the 13th century. The only non-indigenous person known to have seen one was the Japanese anthropologist, Torii Ryz, in 1900. Many people have seen it in the wilds of the southeast of the archipelago, including near Daren Township in Taitung County.
The Paiwan tribe has developed indigenous ranger squads to monitor and defend sensitive places.
They witnessed the leopard, known as Li’uljaw, climb a tree before scaling up a rock to hunt for goats. Another group saw the Asian cat dash past a scooter before climbing a tree and fleeing. The locals are conducting tribal meetings to discuss the next steps after this discovery.
Tribal people believe they can eliminate outsider hunting, while village elders ask authorities to stop logging and other land-damaging activities. “I believe this animal still exists,” says Liu Chiung-hsi of NTU’s Life Science Department. Following the sightings of the Formosan clouded leopard, Pan Chih-hua (head of the Alangyi tribal conference), verified to CNA on Saturday that his village’s men had indeed seen the wild animal, but declined to provide the time and place. “The animal is alert and cannot be easily trapped or caught by hunters in the wild,” added Liu.
Professor Liu also reported meeting local Bunun hunters who confirmed killing the animal multiple times in the late 1990s but burned the remains to avoid prosecution for breaking Taiwan’s Wildlife Conservation Act. Between 2001 and 2013, a team of Taiwanese and American zoologists explored the region and found no evidence of the Formosan clouded leopard.
“Taiwan’s Forestry Bureau updated its Schedule of Protected Wildlife in January,” says IFL Science. The Formosan clouded leopard is still in category I.
“Removing the Formosa clouded leopard from the list would be a huge event,“ said Chao Ren-fang, a professor at I-Shou University’s Institute of Biology. He said that it would be important to look at society’s point of view, because the indigenous people might not like it.
A giant tortoise, last seen in 1906 and thought extinct, appeared on a Galápagos island last week, much like the Tasmanian tiger (thylacine), which is constantly spotted by surprised Australians despite being declared extinct in 1936.