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Taiwan leopard cats spotted in Miaoli County

Multiple sightings of Taiwan leopard cats reported in Miaoli County

Taiwan leopard cat.

Taiwan leopard cat. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- A project launched to study the behavior of Taiwan leopard cats on a stretch of highway where many have been killed by vehicles has resulted in many new sightings of the elusive feline, reported UDN.

County Highway 140 in Miaoli has seen an epidemic of deaths of leopard cats after being struck by cars. Therefore, the county government in October of last year initiated a project to identify high-risk areas in Miaoli County.

As part of the study, a professional team was commissioned to set up 13 infrared automatic cameras to monitor leopard cat behavior along County Highway 140.

Thus far, four cameras have captured the activities of leopard cats. Among the cameras include two located on the southeast side of Da'an Wetland Park.

Taiwan leopard cats spotted in Miaoli County
(Photo by Miaoli County Government)

The Miaoli Agriculture Department said that cameras have been set up along the riverbed adjacent to an elevated section of County Highway 140 and next to Da'an Wetland Park. The creatures have mainly been photographed at night and their droppings can also be found in the nearby stream bed.

Conservation groups have criticized Da'an Wetland Park for "destroying the habitat of leopard cats." However, the research team said that if the park can be properly maintained in the future, leopard cats can use culverts as a way to connect with its habitats on either side of the road. It is hoped that these passageways will have a positive effect on reducing the number hit by cars in the region.

The results of the study are expected in late June of this year. It is hoped that the results of the survey will yield the extent to which the road endangers the animals and appropriate measures which can be taken based on the road structure and surrounding environment.

Taiwan leopard cats spotted in Miaoli County
(Photo by Miaoli County Government)

In addition, the county government plans to conduct a two-year study on the number and distribution of leopard cats in the county's foothills. The data from which will be used to formulate conservation plans and major project developments in the future, so that both development and conservation can be taken into account.

The animal is threatened with extinction, with fewer than 1,000 estimated to be living on the island, most often in isolated mountain areas from Nantou County in Central Taiwan to Miaoli County in the north. In some cases, the presence of leopard cats has only been recorded because they were fatally hit by a car.

During the Japanese colonial period, from 1895 to 1945, the animal lived all over the island, but during the past decade, the leopard cat’s natural habitat has rapidly shrunk due to human activity and land development. In recent years, only the area from Miaoli to Nantou, and including Greater Taichung and Changhua County, has been known as providing a habitat to the shy creatures.

The leopard cat or Prionailurus bengalensis chinensis weighs between 3 and 6 kilograms, and feeds mostly on mice and rats.