Shadow is a melanistic leopard, otherwise known as a black leopard. Melanistic leopards are a genetic mutation and can occur in the wild. This is unlike white tigers where the genetic mutation occurs mostly due to inbreeding. Melanistic leopards, like yellow/golden leopards, have spots but require proper lighting to identify. Melanistic leopards are rare in the wild, ~11% chance, and are found mostly in the deep forests and have mostly been spotted in the depths of the forest in Asia, providing increased camouflage. Melanism occurs in both leopards and jaguars and are often called black panthers due to their Genus name. There have also been records of white leopards in India between 1905-1967 and leopards with erythrism, pinkish hue (pink leopard/pink panther), between 1990-2015 in South Africa, but neither have been spotted since then!
When Shadow first arrived, he was very apprehensive and retreated mostly into the “shadows.” We were told when we adopted him that he mostly kept to himself and was not big on interacting with people. We gave him the time and space, including a big and tall enclosure, to adapt. Within a few weeks in his new enclosure, he stopped standing on the sidelines and started exploring, well, everything! He enjoys all the toys in the playground including his pool. He has started warming up to the volunteers and keepers and has created unique bonds with each. He demonstrates a love for painting, chasing his ball in the playground, cardboard with interesting scents, and food! His love of life along with the bonds he has curated establishes that Shadow is not the cat that first came; rather he has adapted and bloomed into a beautiful complex leopard, and we are grateful that he is in our care.