TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Researchers have verified the presence of endangered leopard cats in Yunlin County for the first time in over 30 years based on eight confirmed sightings gathered over four years.
In a Wednesday (Nov. 1) press release, the Forestry and Nature Conservation Agency's Nantou Branch said in coordination with the National Pingtung University of Science and Technology (NPUST) it recorded a leopard cat on video in Yunlin County's Linnei Township in 2019. Since then, seven additional sightings of the critically endangered animal in other townships have been recorded.
Prior to the new study, the last confirmed sighting of the indigenous feline in Yunlin County was in Gukeng Township in 1988. The findings help present a fuller picture of the leopard cat's distribution in Taiwan.
Since 2018, Su Hsiu-hui (蘇秀慧), an associate professor at NPUST's Institute of Wildlife Conservation, has been deploying infrared cameras to monitor the behavior of Formosan rock macaques in agricultural environments. However, on April 6, 2019, one of the cameras installed near the border between Linnei Township in Yunlin County and Zhushan Township in Nantou County captured an image of a leopard cat in Linnei Township's Pingding Village.
From 2020-2022, four additional images were captured in Linnei Township's Pingding Village, Huben Village, and Linmao Village. In 2023, there have been three more images taken in Pingding Village and Gukeng Township's Xinzhuang Village.
In 2021, the Taiwan Biodiversity Research Institute reintroduced two orphaned leopard cat cubs in Nantou County's Zhushan Township. The records of their release show that the wild cats have been observed along the Qingshui River and its tributaries extending into Yunlin County.
Currently, leopard cats only have stable populations in Miaoli County, Taichung City, and Nantou County. In recent years, sporadic sightings have also been recorded in Hsinchu County, Changhua City, Chiayi County, and Tainan.
The agency said evidence shows Yunlin County is an essential area for the southward expansion of the population in Nantou County. It said Yunlin also serves as an important node for connecting habitats in the central and southern regions of Taiwan.