TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- In the wake of two leopard cats (石虎) being killed on Taiwan's roads within 10 days in January, video footage yesterday surfaced of Miaoli County Councilor Han Mao-hsien (韓茂賢) claiming that the recent spike in deaths of endangered species is because there are "too many leopard cats."
On Jan. 9, a dead leopard cat was discovered on Provincial Highway 29 in Miaoli County. A mere ten days later, on Jan. 19, the carcass of another leopard cat was spotted at the 38-kilometer mark of Provincial Highway 13 in Tongluo Township in Miaoli County.
On Wednesday night (April 3), the Facebook group Hanwei Miaoli Qingnian Lianmeng (捍衛苗栗青年聯盟) released a video which showed Han at a meeting held by the Miaoli County Government saying that only 500 leopard cats had been spotted in the wild 10 years ago. He claimed that since that time, the population has increased by 150 percent every year and now, "there should be more than 10,000."
Han theorized that the result of the supposed population explosion is that the "there are too many leopard cats, so they run onto the road... and once they are on the road, they are hit by cars." Taiwanese netizens, however, were not impressed with the county councilor's "expert" testimony:
"When people are hit by cars is it because there are too many of them?"
"I'm not from Miaoli, but I can't stand to watch this."
"I can't bear it. I watching this made me furious!"
Deceased leopard cat. (Photo from Facebook group 貓徑地圖王小明)
Experts believe 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.