Taipei-Two leopard cat kittens that apparently strayed from their mother were rescued by a local resident in Miaoli County on Monday, according to the Animal Care and Health Office under the county's Agriculture Department.
The animals were found in the roadside gutter of a mountainous road in Gongguan Township at around 10 a.m. by a local resident, said Chang Wei (??), who heads the office, on Tuesday.
According to Chang, the person who called in to the office at around noon claimed that he found two leopard cats while driving along Township Road No. 26-2 in Miaoli after stopping to check why a stray dog was barking aggressively at something.
At first he thought they were just domestic cats, the office chief said, recounting her conversation with the Miaoli man.
He realized their ears were more rounded than those of typical cats, however, and was soon convinced they were none other than Taiwan's endangered wild leopard cats, Chang said.
The rescued kittens were later taken to the animal and health office for health checks.
The leopard cats, a male and female, were roughly three to four weeks old and weighed 376 grams and 404 grams, respectively, Chang said.
They were later transported to the Endemic Species Research Institute in Nantou County to be released into the wild.
It was the first time in recent years that leopard cats had been spotted in the Gongguan area, she said.
The kittens somehow became separated from their mother, and office staff returned to the rescue site Monday to search for her but did not find anything, Chang said.
According to the Leopard Cat Association of Taiwan, the population of leopard cats -- the nation's only surviving cat living in the wild -- is currently less than 500 nationwide.
Feeding mostly on mice and rats, leopard cats are roughly the size of house cats with tawny black-spotted pelts, and they thrive in Taiwan's lower elevations of around 500 meters.
According to the Animal Care and Health Office, 19 leopard cats have been killed on the road in parts of Miaoli County outside Gongguan Township this year after an adult male leopard cat was found dead on a road in another township on Sept. 22.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel