Merazonia is a well-known wildlife rescue center located more or less between our Rio Anzu and Rio Zunac reserves, about 8 or 9 km away from each of them. Along with their animal rescue projects, they actively protect a 250 acre (100 ha) reserve on the lower flanks of the Cordillera Abitagua near Mera. A few weeks ago their camera trap captured these incredible videos of the most impressive mammal on this continent, the very rare melanistic (black) form of the jaguar (Panthera onca). This animal is also known as the black panther, though it is not really a separate species from the jaguar. Jaguars are extremely rare to begin with, and only about 1 in 20 of them are blackish like this one, so it is a minor miracle to get multiple good videos of it like this. Congratulations to Frank and the Merazonia team for managing to film it.
We have heard stories of a black jaguar shot twenty years ago near what is now our Rio Zunac Reserve, and even today we still hear rumors of black jaguar sightings around our Rio Anzu Reserve. But this is the first proof that black jaguars still survive in this heavily fragmented area, in spite of the roads and deforestation and hunters. This is very exciting and encouraging news. This particular animal could easily be visiting both our nearby reserves. Some very large cat tracks were seen by our guards in the Rio Zunac Reserve two years ago, and we thought they might be a jaguar’s.
Jaguars’ favorite food seems to be peccaries (wild pigs). Our guards recently told me that when they were young, Collared Peccaries (Pecari tajacu) lived in the Rio Zunac basin, though there are none today. We talked about re-introducing them. Now that we know we might have top predators looking for peccaries here, it makes even more sense to re-introduce them and restore this interaction.
The jaguar in the video has spots much deeper black than the rest of the body, which looks dark but not pure black. This is probably the offspring of one black parent and one normal parent. The black gene is partially dominant in jaguars, so it is expressed even if there is only one copy of it in an individual’s genome, but it is expressed more intensely when there are two copies (one from each parent).
Here is a link to another photo of a jaguar similar to the one in the video, with a dark but not black ground color, with markings that are true black. The picture was taken by my friend Peter Oxford. Note: Clicking on this image link will open the image in this browser window, replacing the blog post. To return to this post, use the “back” arrow:
Here is a much darker individual, probably with two copies of the melanistic allele.
In case the Merazonia Facebook page does not work for you, you can see their black jaguar video below:
Lou Jost, EcoMinga