The Big Cat Sanctuary in Kent, UK, recently received a little bundle of joy when resident jaguar Keira gave birth to a cub. However, the little boy came with a big surprise as it was completely black. Black jaguars are not uncommon, but rare, which makes this birth – which is a boon to the entire species – all the more special.
Jaguars certainly make the big ones in big cats as they are the largest in America, with an average length of around 2 meters. They are famous for their giant murder gloves (also known as paws) and large heads with powerful jaws. While we may not fare as well against these formidable predators at hand-to-hand combat, their enormous size comes in handy when you just want to spend some time singing about an adorable hatchling that is made even smaller by the enormous size of their mother.
Usually their coats are the same orange color as other big cats, only marked with distinctive dark rosettes. However, sometimes nature develops a unique design when young animals are born with a disease known as melanism. In every corner of the animal kingdom (check out those velvety black seals), melanism is a condition that causes an excess of pigment, making animals appear much darker than usual. Few jaguars are born with melanism, so pitch black babies like this one are quite rare. Big cats born with melanism are commonly referred to as black panthers, although they are usually jaguars or leopards, depending on where in the world you are.
The baby, born on April 6th, should be in good health and as playful as she is spirited. She was filmed on her best attempts at hissing, even though she is so incredibly small. Not yet named, the Big Cat Sanctuary is holding a competition in which you can choose between the names Inka, Inti or Killari, in which you (submitted with a donation) for the chance to meet the young in person as part of a VIP Sanctuary tour to get to know.
THIS WEEK IN IFLSCIENCE
Receive our greatest science stories in your inbox every week!