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Clouded leopard declared extinct in Taiwan

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of China (Taiwan)

A Formosan cloud leopard, now extinct in Taiwan.

By Douglas Main, OurAmazingPlanet

The Formosan clouded leopard, a clouded-leopard subspecies native to Taiwan, is now extinct, according to a team of zoologists.

"There is little chance that the clouded leopard still exists in Taiwan," zoologist Chiang Po-jen told Taiwan's Central News Agency (CNA). "There may be a few of them, but we do not think they exist in any significant numbers."

Zoologists from Taiwan and the United States have looked for the animal on and off since 2001, to no avail. To see if any of the animals remained, the researchers set up about 1,500 infrared cameras and scent traps in the Taiwanese mountains but found nothing.  

Now, the only one left in the country is a stuffed specimen at the National Taiwan Museum, zoologist Liu Jian-nan told CNA. There are two live clouded leopards at Taipei Zoo, but they are an imported subspecies from Southeast Asia.

The range of clouded leopards (Neofelis nebulosa) spans from the hills of the Himalayas to Southeast Asia to China. The animals are known for the patches on their fur that resemble clouds. They also sport fangs larger than those of any other feline.

In 2006, research revealed that clouded leopards found in the Sunda Islands of Southeast Asia — which include Borneo, Java, Sumatra and Bali — were a separate species, now known as Sunda clouded leopards (Neofelis diardi).

Formosan clouded leopards, which were not thought to be a separate species, have been driven to extinction by habitat destruction and illegal hunting for their skin and bones.

Email Douglas Main or follow him @Douglas_Main. Follow us @OAPlanet, Facebook or Google+. Original article on LiveScience's OurAmazingPlanet.