The government has ordered local authorities to consider the impact on the habitat of endangered leopard cats when conducting environmental assessments of development projects, Minister Without Portfolio Chang Ching-sen (張景森) said on Saturday.
The announcement came after the Miaoli County Council on Tuesday last week rejected a bill to protect the endemic wildcat species.
Chang directed the Council of Agriculture to survey leopard cat habitats, with the creatures known to be predominantly in Miaoli, Nantou and Changhua counties, as well as Taichung, he said.
Photo courtesy of the Miaoli County government
Leopard cats have been spotted in New Taipei City and Hsinchu County, so local authorities have been ordered to conduct studies on their number and distribution, Chang said.
A map of the major habitats would be released online by the end of this year, with the data to be used when local governments conduct environmental assessments, he said.
As leopard cats have been killed on roads, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications and the Ministry of Economic Affairs have been asked to draw up short, medium and long-term plans to protect the animal, Chang said.
The Miaoli County Government last year drafted the Miaoli County leopard cat conservation autonomous bill, but it was defeated in the county council by a 9-25 vote.
Leopard Cat Association of Taiwan member Chen Chi-chung (陳祺忠) urged the central and local governments to recognize the importance of leopard cat conservation, and to make policy decisions with an environmental perspective.
The Miaoli decision did not only catch environmentalists’ attention.
Mayday lead guitarist Wen Shang-yi (溫尚翊), who is known as Monster, and YouTube content creator Holger Chen (陳之漢) called attention to the conservation of leopard cats by sharing an online petition on Facebook on Thursday.
There are fewer than 500 leopard cats in the wild, Leopard Cat Association of Taiwan data show.
Feeding mostly on mice and rats, leopard cats are roughly the size of house cats and have tawny, black-spotted pelts. They thrive in elevations of about 500m.
In May, a provincial highway in northern Taiwan introduced a first-of-its-kind smart roadside detection system to help prevent roadkill incidents.
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