HA NOI (VNS) — Environmentalists and city authorities are puzzled over reports that a herd of leopards is living on an islet in the Hong (Red) River in the capital city.
Local people interviewed on a national TV channel said they saw many wild animals that looked like domestic cats wandering around the islet and in nearby areas looking for food and water.
|One of leopard cats being raised at the Cuc Phuong National Park, Ninh Binh Province. Ha Noi residents near the Hong (Red River) islet said they saw many wild
animals that looked like leopard cats wandering around the islet looking for food and water. — Photo soha.vn
Pham Van Son, who has been living near the islets for many years, said the animals looked much larger than domestic cats and had spotted coats.
They usually came in groups to visit his garden at night and never caused any noise or chaos, Son said.
Trần Quang Phương, an official from Cuc Phuong National Park's Wild Animals Rescue Centre in the northern Ninh Binh Province, was very surprised at the reports as he said leopards were facing a serious risk of extinction.
He said the reports were really good news if they were true as, at the moment, the number of such wild animals were very limited in Viet Nam as well as in the world.
Phuong told Tri Thuc Tre newspaper that the centre would send a group of scientists to the islet to study the situation, and would conduct all necessary emergency activities to protect the animals if they were confirmed to be leopards.
Right after watching the news, the city's Forestry Management Unit also said it would send a group of researchers to the areas to search for evidence of the wild animals.
Director of the Ha Noi Forestry Management Unit Le Minh Tuyen told a local paper that till now there had been no confirmation of the presence of such cats on the islet.
The leopard, scientifically known as prionailurus bengalensis, is a well-known and observed felid that inhabits forests and plains in Asia. This cat is usually a solitary cat that sleeps in caves and hollow trees, and hunts mostly on the ground. They are also known to be arboreal and can swim.
A leopard looks like a house cat, but with longer legs. The body and tail are covered with dark spots, with stripes running down the back of the head. These break into short bands and elongated spots down the middle of the back.
The tail has indistinct rings toward its tip. The cat measures 60cm to 90 cm (head and body) with a tail length of 28cm to 37cm, and a shoulder height of 20cm to 45cm. There is sexual dimorphism, and males weigh more than females. The eyes are outlined with white stripes that originate at the internal corners and streak across the cheeks. — VNS