A man in Taitung has an unusual family heirloom: the pelt of a Formosan clouded leopard.
Lin Shang-chen (林尚珍), 95, said the pelt — which hangs on a wall in his living room — was purchased by his father from a Bunun 98 years ago.
The pelt is an unusual find today, as Formosan clouded leopards are presumed extinct, with the last confirmed sighting in the 1980s.
Lin said he regrets that he never had the chance to see a living clouded leopard.
When he looks at the pelt, he often imagines what the animal must have looked like running through the forest, he said.
His father used to throw the pelt over the back of a chair when he was younger, which warmed the seat in winter.
Lin’s father, who was head of a district in Guanshan Township (關山) during the Japanese colonial era, bought the pelt shortly after arriving in town to take up the post in 1921, Lin said, adding that a bullet hole from a hunter’s gun can be seen in the scalp.
After his father passed away, Lin said he felt it was important to preserve the pelt to keep the memory of his father alive, so he had it framed and hung on the wall.
Every summer he takes it out to air in the sun to get rid of odors, he said.
Yushan National Park reported a suspected sighting of a clouded leopard by a member of a Tsou community 20 years ago near the Nanzihsian River (楠梓仙溪).
Lin said he hopes the sighting means that the clouded leopard is not extinct and he has been waiting for news of a confirmed sighting since then.
Yushan National Park secretary Chuan Hung-te (全鴻德), a Bunun, said that there is a Bunun word for the clouded leopard — uk nav — which Chuan said was evidence that the Bunun came into contact with the animal early in their history.
Chuan said the sighting 20 years ago was reportedly made by people picking leaves of the climbing fig near the river.
However, a lack of video or photographic evidence means that the sighting cannot be confirmed, Chuan said.
The Formosan clouded leopard was elusive and avoided human habitats, so only skilled hunters had the opportunity to see them in the wild, Chuan said.
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