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Dark Leopard

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Unusual big Cat of Africa and Asia.

Scientific name: Panthera pardus var. melanotica, 
based on the Grahamst own specimen.

Variant names: Damasia (Gikuyu/Bant u, in 
Kenya), Kibambangwe, Ndalawo, Shing Mun 
Tiger.

Physical description: Leopard with dark coat 
patterns that are dist inct from the melanist ic, 
all-black variety.

Distribution: Aberdare Highlands, Kenya; 
Bufumbira Count y, sout hwest Uganda; 
Virunga Volcanos region of Rwanda; East ern 
Cape Province, Sout h Africa; Kerala St at e, 
India; Bali, Indonesia; and Hong Kong, China.

Significant sightings: A pseudomelanist ic leopard 
was shot near Grahamst own, East ern Cape 
Province, Sout h Africa, in t he 1880s. It had a 
t awny background color, wit h an orange gloss 
on t he shoulders. Small spot s coalesced on it s 
back t o form a solid black color from head t o 
t ail. The underpart s looked like a t ypical leopard’s 
(whit e wit h large spot s). It s t ot al lengt h 
was 6 feet 7 inches.

Anot her specimen was killed in Kerala St at e, 
sout hwest ern India, in 1912. The roset t es were 
fused int o a solid black over t he ent ire upper 
body.

G. Hamilt on-Snowball shot a large, dark 
leopard in t he Aberdare Highlands, Kenya, in 
t he 1920s. The local Gikuyu people t old him it 
was called a Damasia and was different from a 
leopard.

A mounted leopard, supposedly obt ained in 
Belize, is on display at t he Wildlife World Museum 
in Springfield, Missouri. It s background 
color is a very dark reddish-brown.

Present status: Melanist ic Leopards (Panthera 
pardus) have an abnormally dark background 
color, but t he roset t es are st ill visible under 
proper light ing condit ions or up close. They are 
common in Myanmar, peninsular Malaysia, 
sout hern India, Java, sout hwest ern China, and 
some part s of Nepal and Assam. Black leopards 
are less common in Africa, t hough t hey have 
been report ed in Et hiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, and 
Cameroon.

Pseudomelanist ic leopards are known from 
only a few specimens. The background color is 
a normal orange-yellow, but t he roset t es are so 
abundant t hat t hey have fused t oget her int o a 
solid black color over port ions of t he coat . The 
normal background color is somet imes visible in 
t hin, irregular yellow st reaks. Though document 
ed, t he pseudomelanist ic morph is not well 
known and might be misint erpret ed as an unknown 
animal if it is found unexpect edly.

Brown mutants are also on record.

 

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