Peninsular Malaysia hosts the largest population of both Indochinese leopards and melanistic leopards. More commonly known as “black panthers”, these melanistic variants seem to have developed an evolutionary advantage over the normal Indochinese leopards in Malaysia.
According to Reuben Clements, an Associate Professor in Universiti Malaysia Terengganu who has studied leopards in the region for several years, the variant’s black coats make them “less sought after for their skins compared to the spotted leopards,” reducing the threat from poaching.
He also commented that the population may have hung on here due to “more forest” and the denser canopy of the Malaysian rainforests that could offer “additional habitat for leopards to utilize and to evade dangers on the ground.”
Although Clements stated that “No one knows for sure,” another possible cause for the thriving “black panther” population might be the advantages that the black coat offers when hunting prey at night.
Hopefully, such traits continue to help the “black panther” thrive and draw more attention towards the big cats in Southeast Asia that often fall victim to poaching.
- Hance, Jeremy. “Another Big Predator In Southeast Asia Faces Extinction”. The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/radical-conservation/2016/aug/31/leopards-tigers-asia-snares-poaching-endangered-extinction.