Black Leopard

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  1. Rare black leopard caught on camera for first time in 100 years
  2. Share your thoughts and debate the big issues
  3. Black Leopard Photographed For The First Time In Years
  4. Sightings of wild melanistic leopards are rare in Africa—but not unheard of.

This causes an overproduction of pigment which turns the coat black. The coat still has all the same features as a non-melanistic leopard, including the rosettes or spots, which is one of the pieces of evidence we used in our study to scientifically confirm black leopard presence in Kenya.

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Rare black leopard caught on camera for first time in 100 years

Broadly, melanism has arisen independently in the cat family multiple times , and exists in 13 of the 37 cat species in the Felidae family. This suggests an adaptive significance to carrying this trait. Black leopards are thought to persist in densely forested habitats, because it offers additional camouflage against shaded or dark backgrounds.

This raises questions about whether being black in an arid environment influences hunting strategy, mating, and reproduction. And whether there are natural selection mechanisms, other than camouflage, that allow melanism to persist in leopards. Are there any specific threats faced by black leopards, and what needs to be done to protect them? Leopards face a number of threats, including habitat loss, prey loss, conflict with humans and poaching , and trafficking of their parts.

Panther sneaks up behind man and then ...

These threats face all leopards, black included. If a leopard were to kill livestock, it would face persecution from locals regardless of its coat color. However, through our conversations with communities, we found stories that reveal a level of protection towards the big cats. When hunting in Kenya was legal, some guides refused to shoot black leopards. In Samburu culture in the Laikipia Plateau, owning a black cow is thought to be lucky to livestock herders, and the principle of rarity extends to a black leopard. Sighting one is thought to be a symbol which requires interpretation and reflection.

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Hopefully the global attention garnered recently by the black leopard images will move public consciousness to recognize leopards and their plight in conservation. This article was originally published on The Conversation by Sam Williams. Read the original article here. Science Animals Share Subscribe. The story of the black leopard is more than just a story about a cool creature. In fact, just this week scientists from San Diego Zoo Global have confirmed that these black leopards range into Loisaba Conservancy, a project The Nature Conservancy helped secure.

The research was aimed at understanding the natural history of leopards as well as their population in the area. While the African leopard population has been decreasing, the extent of this decline remains unknown. Ambrose Letoluai grew up in Koija, bordering the Loisaba Conservancy, and knows well some of the challenges facing leopards. The leopards often killed sheep and goats owned by local residents.

Letoluai was supported by the Loisaba Conservancy through a scholarship in high school and college. After an internship, he joined the leopard conservation program as a research assistant. One of his tasks was visiting local communities to understand predation on livestock. These interviews led to mitigation strategies to help people better coexist with large predators.

Such strategies included the use of cell phones to report predation conflicts, direct monitoring of livestock corrals with remote cameras and an upcoming implementation of predator deterrents.

Share your thoughts and debate the big issues

The researchers set out camera traps and obtained footage of black leopards. It was the first scientifically confirmed black leopard in Africa since , when one was documented in Ethiopia.


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It was the first documentation of a black leopard in Kenya. Scientific documentation requires not only sufficient evidence, but also publication in a peer-reviewed journal. All we have done is scientifically establish a fact that local people already knew.

Black Leopard Photographed For The First Time In Years

There has been some confusion in the media as to what a scientific confirmation entails. Nicholas Pilfold describes it as such: A sighting means an animal is spotted in the wild, a description is available, but the quality may or may not be good enough to accurately determine the species. Photographic evidence means an animal is photographed in the wild, but the quality may or many not be good enough to accurately determine the species.

Scientific documentation requires photos and descriptions of behavior and body feature to such a high level that they can be passed through peer-reviewed assessment by other scientists to establish species. While a melanistic leopard appears completely black in the daytime, the rosettes show clearly with infrared photography at night. The observations were published in the African Journal of Ecology. The ongoing trail camera project has captured images of two melanistic leopards, a young female and an adult male.

While the researchers continue to track these animals, many questions remain.

Sightings of wild melanistic leopards are rare in Africa—but not unheard of.

Melanism is a gene mutation caused by over-production of pigment, making the animal appear black in daytime. Leopards were once a widespread species throughout Africa and Asia, and of the current remaining populations, about 11 percent of all leopards are estimated to be melanistic. However, this trait is not distributed evenly among the population.

As many as 95 percent of leopards on the Malayan Peninsula are melanistic. In African leopards, the trait is rare. The presence of black leopards on the Laikipia Plateau in Kenya calls into question a previous hypothesis of melanism in the species. But there is not a lot of dense forest in Laikipia.