Discussion in 'Wildlife & Nature Conservation' started by Arizona Docent, 31 Jul 2015.
This thread is for discussion of all things related to black (melanistic) wild cats.
The reason for this thread is a discussion started on the San Diego Zoo news thread. It involves the appearance (or lack thereof) of black leopards in Africa as opposed to Asia (where they are well known). Also related to the same discussion was the frequency of melanistic servals.
As for the latter, melanistic servals occur in high frequency (perhaps half of the population) in the Aberdares mountains of Kenya. They are seen by campers and a couple very clear photos exist.
Melanistic leopards are frequently cited in literature as occurring in the same area. However, this appears to be just anecdotal with no solid evidence that I have personally seen. If there is solid evidence (a verifiable photo or a museum specimen of known origin) I would be happy to learn about it, so please post a link.
Cross-posting from the other thread:
Incorrect, as it happens; there is a melanistic individual at Heythrop Zoo which is of known wildcaught origin.
Is this the one that appears in the latest T.V advert for Jaguar?
I can't bring the advert to mind at the moment, but considering the location of the animal I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest. I know it *has* been used in adverts in the past.
So, we've discussed melanistic African leopards in zoos, what about melanistic servals? I know at least some zoos have "white" servals, and I'm assuming there must be some melanistic servals in captivity somewhere. Anyone know?
Known to be wild caught from Africa? If so where exactly? Aberdares or elsewhere? (I would be skeptical of this claim if it was from anyone other than you, but considering the source I will take it as believable).
That's why I thought it probably is. If so its evidently supposed to represent a Jaguar.
I don't know exact details about the location the animal came from, but I think zoogiraffe (who told me to pay close attention to the leopard when we went to Heythrop last year, and has spoken to the owner on a number of occasions) knows more on the subject. The animal in question came from the population which is sometimes referred to as Panthera pardus shortridgei or the Central African Leopard; which is reported from Angola to Mozambique, north to Chad.
The only white (leucistic) servals that I have ever heard of (and have personally photographed) were all born at Wildlife On Easy Street in Florida (which has since changed its name and ceased all breeding and in fact is trying to ban breeding in all USA zoos). I have never heard of any black servals in captivity. That does not mean there might not be one in an obscure African zoo or rescue center, but I have never heard of one.
I have heard Ethiopia is a hot spot for melanistic leopards. Just looked what I could find and found this.
Leopard - New World Encyclopedia
On the Malay Peninsula, one hundred percent of leopards are black, not up to fifty percent as they claim. (Note - a couple years ago a camera trap caught the first ever photo of a "normal" leopard on the Malay Peninsula, but this is virtually unheard of). As for Ethiopian highlands, I do not recall ever seeing a photo of a leopard (normal or black) from this region. I would be interested to see one.
The fact there is at least one normal recorded means they can't be 100% blacks. Also, if they were, I don't think genetically they could produce any normals in subsequent generations.
The Malay population is an interesting quandary. Not only did the initial camera traps reveal only black individuals, but the local indigenous people were surveyed as part of the study. When shown a picture of a black leopard they all recognized it. When shown a picture of a normal spotted leopard none of them knew what it was. It was some time later that a camera trap photo revealed one normal specimen, which was quite a surprise. You bring up an interesting question, though. If (as has been assumed) the black gene is recessive in leopards, how can a population of black leopards produce a yellow cat? Either it is not recessive or there are more yellow cats in the region than previously thought.
The new issue of IUCN Cat News has an article and photo of allegedly the first known melanistic bay cat (Catopuma badia). It was taken via camera trap in west Sarawak (Maylasia), near the border of the Malaysian and Indonesian sections of the island of Borneo. The little know bay cat has been confirmed via camera trap to occur in a reddish form (predominantly) and a dark gray form, just like jaguarundi and the bay cat's close relative the golden cat. The cat in this photo interestingly has a dark body but a red tail. In my opinion the low light and backlit cat could easily be the dark gray form, so I am not sure I would count it as conclusive evidence of melanism. The article authors make the odd conclusion that the fact that a reddish patch occurs on the tail and neck (though I cannot see that part) proves that it is a melansitic form and not the gray form. Why???
Snowleopard (the Canadian forum member, not the Asian big cat) just reported a recent visit to Great Cats World Park in Oregon where he saw a melanistic African wildcat! Can anyone confirm that wildcats do occur in a melanistic morph? If not, is this likely a domestic hybrid?
I just received correspondence from a captive cat expert who saw a melanistic wildcat in the wild a couple years ago at Ndutu camp in Serengeti, Tanzania.
the BBC documentary series Wild Africa includes a melanistic leopard in the Aberdares in the Mountains episode. There are a number of other poor-quality photos of melanistic leopards taken in the Aberdares.
As for Ethiopian highlands, I haven't seen a copy but "Melanism in Felines" in Wildlife of Ethiopia (from 2001) says that up to twenty percent of leopards in the highlands there are black. In the six-volume Mammals of Africa by Jonathan Kingdon, he makes specific mention of the Ethiopian black panthers, noting they have the spotting amalgamated into black colouration (so pseudomelanistic rather than being black with the spotting still visible underneath as in actual melanistic leopards).
I have seen the BBC Wild Africa clip of the black leopard (from another ZooChat post years ago). However, knowing their film tactics I suspect it is stock footage of a captive black leopard. I would be very interested in seeing some or the "poor quality photos" as I have never seen a photo of a black leopard taken in the wild in Africa. Same goes for Ethiopian Highlands, if twenty percent are black where are the photos? I am not saying it is impossible, just saying I have not yet seen it.
AD here may be your proof
Big territorial male leopards
Separate names with a comma.