A couple of years ago, photos started emerging about the black leopard in India around Kabini forest in the region of Karnataka. The internet went into frenzy of how the one in a million species of leopards is never seen in just any country and that they should be considered to be precious creatures that ought to be protected at any cost from trophy hunters and corporate entities who would want to profit from them. There were questions and Indian tour guides had a rough time as curious travelers wanted to also have a glimpse at the rare cat.
Before we get too much hyped about the rare black leopard, we also need to know why they appear different from the normal leopards. This is due to a condition called melanism which is pretty the opposite of albinism which is as a result of surplus of pigment in the skin or the hair of an animal so that it appears black. The glossy soot like skin hides its spots within the black spots. This in a way really negates the saying we all grew up learning, ” A leopard cannot hide it’s spots.”
It has been scientifically proven therefore that there are melanistic leopards in selected areas and recently there has been another one spotted in Kenya in Laikipia area. The major point of thrill however is the media coverage of the same and the way the piece of news was presented to the world. This include the kind of articles and coverage by major media institutions. CNN, National Geographic and Daily Mail had the same message that the black leopard was spotted for the first time in 100 years. This is not the same case with a renowned Kenyan journalist Phoebe Okall who in 2013 photographed the same rare leopard in a conservancy in Laikipia.
Burrard Lucas a zoologist with the Laikipia conservancy also came strongly saying the images that have been circulating of the black leopard are exaggerated by the media and are not the same photos of the photos he had captured. According to him these are the images that ought to be circulated by the media.
Anyway with all the controversy surrounding the story it is imperative for all of us to know that melanism can occur to leopards and when it happens it makes them rare and sort after therefore ought to be protected. These are not just normal leopards or maybe mastiff.