Scientists from James Cook University (JCU) in Australia have found a special way to identify individual black leopards. The rare black leopards are endangered, and can be found on the Malay Peninsula.
These black leopards seem to have a uniform dark coat, but researchers have found by using infrared light from hidden cameras that the leopards have spots within their dark-hued coats.
The new discovery allows conservationists to identify individual animals, the first step in preventing poaching.
“We found we could accurately identify 94 percent of the animals,” said Dr Clements, who also works with a local research institute from the University Malaysia Terengganu. “This will allow us to study and monitor this population over time, which is critical for its conservation.”
In a press release JCU wrote, the researchers want to use their new method to study black leopards in other parts of Peninsular Malaysia where there is abundant prey, but few leopards to be seen. It’s thought widespread poaching is to blame,
“Many dead leopards bearing injuries inflicted by wire snares have been discovered in Malaysia,” said Distinguished Professor William Laurance from JCU. He said that leopard skins and body parts are increasingly showing up in wildlife trading markets in places such as on the Myanmar-China border.
It turns out black leopards actually have spots.
“Understanding how leopards are faring in an increasingly human-dominated world is vital,” said Laurie Hedges from the University of Nottingham—Malaysia, lead author of a study on the cats just published in Journal of Wildlife Management. “This new approach gives us a novel tool to help save this unique and endangered animal.”
According to Digital Journal, the black leopards of Peninsular Malaysia are extremely rare. Their black coloration is known as “melanism.” It is found in some mammals, especially in big cats, where some individuals who would normally have spots or colors in the coat are completely black. “This is perhaps the only known example of a wild mammal with virtually an entire population composed of black individuals,” said Laurie Hedges.
With this new information, hopefully we can save the rest from showing up in wildlife trading markets.