Advisor: Dr. Clay Nielsen
Planning the Reintroduction of the Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) to Taiwan: A Pre-Assessment of Attitudes and Potential Support
The clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) was recently declared extinct on Taiwan. Genetic analyses suggest that Formosan (Taiwanese) clouded leopards were indistinct from mainland populations. Therefore, the species can be reintroduced from the mainland to Taiwan, which has the potential to become an island refuge, particularly as clouded leopard habitat continues to shrink across Southeast Asia. The current availability of prey and habitat in Taiwan’s Tawu Mountain area suggests that clouded leopard reintroduction and long-term population viability are feasible. To date, however, there has been little effort to incorporate the attitudes and perceptions of the Taiwanese human population regarding this potential. As the reintroduction of medium-large sized carnivores can lead to antagonistic attitudes within communities, an assessment of resident attitudes is an imperative planning element.
I will employ semi-structured questionnaires to interview the rural populace from communities in the Tawu Mountain area (1) to assess the attitudes and perceptions of Taiwan’s citizens towards clouded leopards, their competitors and prey, and endangered species conservation; (2) to evaluate attitudes specifically towards the reintroduction of clouded leopards to Taiwan, and to the Tawu Mountain area in particular; and (3) to evaluate the value of clouded leopards to Taiwanese citizens and their annual willingness-to-pay in order to support and sustain a successful reintroduction project. My immediate goals are to establish a framework for directing future educational campaigns among stakeholders perceiving negative impacts by the return of clouded leopards, to quantify the level of economic support for clouded leopards and their reintroduction, and to identify areas of strong support and opposition to a reintroduction initiative.