There have been so few sightings of African Black Leopard over the past decades that it has been concluded that they no longer inhabit the forests around Sabie or even exist for that matter.
At 06.30hrs on Tuesday morning 12th March, 2013 a large mature African Black Leopard darted across the R532 in front of a passing motorist. It was approximately 20 meters ahead of the vehicle, and was seen no more than 10km from Sabie.
The motorist was completely unaware of the fact that the African Black Leopard even existed.
This is the first positive identification of an African Black Leopard made in the vicinity of the town of Sabie – ever.
Over the decades there have been sightings mentioned at various spots. There was one seen on the road to Pilgrim’s Rest many years back. Brian Jones saw one at Hartebeesvlakte in 1952. Another was seen in the vicinity of Badplaas but also many years back. It was virtually a case of the African Black Leopard being despatched into the files of legend, like so many other wild life species over the previous centuries.
According to predator specialists in the region Leopards have actually become man and domestic stock eaters, not from preference, but by virtue of the fact that their habitat has gradually but dramatically decreased through pressure on the environment because of so many various demographic challenges.
There have been a frequent number of other Leopard sightings over the past year or two in the Sabie region.
A black panther is typically a melanistic color variant of any of several species of larger cat. In the Americas, wild ‘black panthers’ may be black jaguars (Panthera onca), while in Asia and Africa, black leopards (Panthera pardus); in Asia, possibly the very rare black tigers (Panthera tigris). Smaller wild cats, like jaguarundi, may also be black.
Captive black panthers may be black jaguars, or more commonly Black Leopards. Melanism in the jaguar (Panthera onca) is conferred by a dominant allele, and in the leopard (Panthera pardus) by a recessive allele. Close examination of the color of these black cats will show that the typical markings are still present, but are hidden by the excess black pigment melanin, giving an effect similar to that of printed silk. This is called “ghost striping”. Melanistic and non-melanistic animals can be littermates. It is thought that melanism may confer a selective advantage under certain conditions since it is more common in regions of dense forest, where light levels are lower. Recent, preliminary studies also suggest that melanism might be linked to beneficial mutations in the immune system.
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