Scientists in Taiwan threw in the towel this week on the Formosan clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa brachyura), a subspecies of big cat native to the island. For more than a decade, zoologists from Taiwan and the U.S. have been trying in vain to locate any evidence of the leopard’s presence in Taiwan, and they say there is little chance that Formosan clouded leopards still survive there. Focus Taiwan reports:
In the search for the leopard that typically weighs 10-20 kilograms, the researchers set up some 1,500 infrared cameras and scent traps in the mountains but no evidence was found to suggest that the endemic clouded leopard still exists, according to Chiang.
English naturalist Robert Swinhoe first described the Formosan clouded leopard in 1862. In just over one hundred years, however, the species had all but disappeared. Hunters reported the last confirmed sighting of the animal in the Taiwan’s mountainous region in 1983. In the 1990s, researchers got their hopes up when they saw territorial markings near a national park that could have been made by a clouded leopard, but the animal itself remained elusive. Illegal hunting and development on the island most likely led to the big cat’s demise, they concluded.
Today, two clouded leopards do live in the Taipei zoo, but they are both straight-up Neofelis nebulosa, a species that hails from the Himalayas. The only know specimen of Formosan clouded leopard, which has a tail about half the length of its mainland relatives, sits on a shelf at the National Taiwan Museum.
More from Smithsonian.com: