The China Post staff
A wild kitten jumped on a crane shovel a Puli farmer was operating to clear bushes for a glade to plant ginger.
It mewed pathetically.
The farmer, Pan Shen-hsien, didn't have the heart to shoo the kitten away. Puli is a village in the central Taiwan county of Nantou, near the scenic Sun Moon Lake.
Pan got off and scooped up the kitten in his hands. He looked for its mother but couldn't find her.
Instead, the kind-hearted farmer found a twin of the kitten in a hidden lair.
He decided to take the pair to a vet.
So Pan left the forest for a vet clinic in the village, where he was told to get the twins to the Endemic Species Research institute at Nantou.
Off Pan went to the seat of the Nantou county government.
After a close examination, Chan Fang-tse, ESRI director at Nantou, told the farmer he found two rare leopard cat kittens.
That all took place on last Friday.
The leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) is a wild cat of Southeast Asia. It is also indigenous to Taiwan, where it is protected as an endangered species.
A nocturnal animal, the leopard cat feeds on rodents, birds, fish, reptiles and small mammals. It is usually solitary except for the mating season. It has litters of two to four kittens.
It looks like an American ocelot, though much smaller.
The kittens were shown the press at the ESRI station at Nantou yesterday. "We've found a treasure," Chan declared.
Both kittens have yet to be weaned. They have to be fed cow's milk once every five hours.
One more chore is to raise the tail of each kitten to wipe the part immediately under it with tissue paper from time to time. They need a proxy mother to stimulate the opening at the lower end of the alimentary canal through which the solid refuse of digestion is excreted.
"In the wild," Chan said, "their mother licks that part to get the refuse out and eat it."
The kittens will be kept at the ESRI station until they are weaned.
In the meantime, the ESRI is looking for a place where the pair can be kept after the weaning. A zoo may be interested in adopting them, Chan said.