Friday, 22 September 2017

The plan to reintroduce a big cat that might never have existed

13 September 2017
Ideas are afoot to return the clouded leopard to Taiwan, where it was declared extinct in 2013. Yet some say the big cat never lived there
By Sean Mowbray
“THIS is another animal from the distant wilds of the interior, whose skins the savages bring to the borders to barter with the Chinese.” With these words, published in 1862, Robert Swinhoe introduced the Formosan clouded leopard to the Western world. Europe’s consular representative to Taiwan, he had seen only a few flattened skins on the island, but this was enough for him to distinguish it as a species new to science. Unlike its relatives elsewhere in Asia, wrote Swinhoe, the Formosan clouded leopard had a short tail.
It was declared extinct in 2013, but this is no ordinary story about a large cat being wiped off the planet. There’s a catch. Plans are afoot to bring the svelte feline’s closest relative back to Taiwan – despite lingering questions over whether the clouded leopard ever existed at all.

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