Neofelis nebulosa brachyurus (Swinhoe, 1862)

Formosan clouded leopard, Formosan leopard (archaic)



Taxonomy & Nomenclature

Synonym/s: Leopardus brachyurus Swinhoe, 1862 (original combination); Neofelis nebulosa brachyura (Swinhoe, 1862)


The validity of the subspecies has been seriously questioned:

"The distinctiveness of N. n. brachyura was also not supported by Kitchener et al. (2006) or by analysis of the short mtDNA fragment of Buckley-Beason et al. (2006). In addition Kitchener et al. (2006) pointed out that the original diagnosis of brachyura was made on the basis of a shorter tail, which is an unreliable characteristic (Pocock 1939, Kuroda 1940), especially as the holotype was a traded specimen with an incomplete tail (Kitchener et al. 2006)."

Source: Kitchener et al., 2017


Conservation Status

Invalid (synonym)

Last record: after 1900? (post-WWII?)

IUCN RedList status: Extinct


There is much uncertainty as to when the clouded leopard population on Taiwan became extinct. It may have gone extinct as early as the Late Pleistocene (Gan et al., 2016) if all of the traded skins turn out to be from other taxa, or at least of non-Taiwan origin. If some of the skins are genuine, then they were apparently still being procured after 1900. However, the validity of the subspecies has been seriously questioned (see Kitchener et al, 2017).

A purported photo taken by a biologist in 1983, and showing a clouded leopard at the bottom of an aboriginal's trap, was widely circulated at the time and considered to be genuine by many people. Because of this, many people believe that it survived into the 1980's. However, the authenticity of this photo, which was "accidentally" destroyed about 5 years later, has almost certainly been disproven (dead link).

Chiang (2007) documents several evidences that the Formosan clouded leopard did in fact survive into the 1980's (and possibly into the 21st century), quite separate from the photo. However, Chiang et al. (2014) declared the Formosan clouded leopard extinct. One of the most enigmatic mammals to have disappeared within the last one hundred millennia.



Taiwan (=Formosa)


It appears that all known surviving recent N. n. barchyurus specimens were from individuals that were long dead when obtained by scientists. This has led to the postulation that the species was not even native to Taiwan. Another possibility is that the native population was not taxonomically distinct enough to warrant description as a new taxon. However, subfossil molars of Neofelis dating to the Late Pleistocene, and significantly larger than those from it's confirmed recent populations, are evidence that the genus did occur naturally on the island in the past (Gan et al. 2016).


Biology & Ecology




Holotype: BMNH 1862.12.24.25 (skin and skull)






Original scientific description:

Swinhoe, R. (1862). On the Mammals of the Island of Formosa. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 23: 347-365.


Other references:

Anonymous. (1996). The mystery of the Formosan clouded leopard. Cat News 24: 16.

Buckley-Beason V. A., Johnson W. E., Nash W. G., Stanyon R., Menninger J. C., Driscoll C. A, Howard J. G., Bush M., Page J. E., Roelke M. E., Stone G., Martelli P. P., Wen C., Ling L., Duraisingam R. K., Lam P. V. & O’Brien S. J. (2006) Molecular evidence for species-level distinctions in clouded leopards. Curr Biol 16(23): 2371-2376. [Supplementary data]

Chiang, Po-Jen. (2007). Ecology and conservation of Formosan clouded leopard, its prey, and other sympatric carnivores in southern Taiwan. Dissertation submitted to the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (14th of November, 2007).

Chiang, Po-Jen et al. (2014). Is the clouded leopard Neofelis nebulosa extinct in Taiwan, and could it be reintroduced? An assessment of prey and habitat. Oryx DOI: [Abstract]

Ferry, Timothy. (2009). In Search of Taiwan's Clouded Leopard. Taiwan Review. Available at:

Formosan Clouded Leopard. (1972). International Union of Conservation and Nature, Red Data Book. Gland, Switzerland.

Gan, Yi, Chang, Chun-Hsiang and Wu, Ming-Chee. (2016). Study on Pleistocene Fossil Cats (Carnivora, Felidae) From a Limestone Cave in Kenting, Southern Taiwan, East Asia. EGU General Assembly 2016, held 17-22 April, 2016 in Vienna Austria. [Abstract]

Greenspan, Evan et al. (2020). Evaluating Support for Clouded Leopard Reintroduction in Taiwan: Insights from Surveys of Indigenous and Urban Communities. Human Ecology 48: 733-747. [Abstract]

Holmes, Branden. (2021). What's Lost and What Remains: The Sixth Extinction in 100 Accounts (eBook). Self published.

Horikawa Y (1930) Survey of Formosan mammals (IV). Transactions of the Natural History Society of Formosa 20: 277-284.

Kitchener A. C., Beaumont M. A. & Richardson D. 2006. Geographical variation in the clouded leopard, Neofelis nebulosa, reveals two species instead of one. Current Biology 16: 2377-2383.

Kitchener, A.C., Breitenmoser-Wursten, Ch., Eizirik, E., Gentry, A., Werdelin, L., Wilting, A., Yamaguchi, N., Abramov, A.V., Christiansen, P., Driscoll, C., Duckworth, J.W., Johnson, W., Luo, S.-J., Meijaard, E., O, Meijaar, P., Sanderson, J., Seymour, K., Bruford, M., Groves, C., Hoffmann, M., Nowell, K., Timmons, Z., Tobe, S. (2017). A revised taxonomy of the Felidae. The final report of the Cat Classification Task Force of the IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group. Cat News Special Issue 11: 1-80.

Kuroda N (1938) Checklist to the mammals of Japan, Japan.

Kuroda N (1940) A monograph of the Japanese mammals. The Sanseido Co. Ltd., Tokyo, Japan.

Liu, C. N. and Chang Chien, L. (2004). The distribution and genetic variations of Formosa clouded leopard, Neofelis nebulosa brachyurus, and leopard cat, Felis bengalensis chinensis (2/3).  Chichi, Nantou, Taiwn: Taiwan Endemic Species Research Institute.

Mowbray, Sean. (2017). Chasing ghosts. New Scientist 235(3143): 27-28. [Abstract] [relevant reference?]

Nowell, K. (1990). Formosa and the clouded leopard. Cat News 13:15.

Pocock RI (1939). The fauna of British India. (2nd edn), Taylor and Francis, London.

Rabinowitz, A. (1988). The clouded leopard in Taiwan. Oryx 22(1): 46-47.

Swinhoe R (1870) Catalogue of the mammals of China (south of the river Yangtsze) and the island of Formosa. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 32: 615-653.

Wang, Y., Chu, S., Wildt, D. and Seal, U.S. (eds.). (1995). Clouded leopard-Taiwan (Neofelis nebulosa brachyurus). Population and habitat viability analysis. Taipei Zoo, Taiwan.


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