Causes of Odd Eyes in Cats

An odd-eyed cat is a cat with one blue eye and one green, yellow or brown eye. It is a feline form of complete heterochromia, a condition which occurs in some other animals. The condition most commonly affects white colored cats but can be found in a cat of any color, as long is it possesses the white spotting gene.


The odd-eyed coloring is caused when either the epistatic (dominant) white gene (which masks any other color genes and turns a cat completely white) or the white spotting gene (which is the gene responsible for bicolor and tuxedo cats) prevents melanin (pigment) granules from reaching one eye during development, resulting in a cat with one blue eye and one green, yellow or brown eye. It only rarely occurs in cats that lack both the dominant white and the white spotting gene.


As all cats are blue-eyed as kittens, the differences in an odd-eyed kitten's eye color might not be noticeable save upon close inspection. Odd-eyed kittens have a different shade of blue in one eye. The color of the odd eye changes over a period of months, for example, from blue to green to yellow or from green to blue to yellow, until it reaches its final, adult color.

Cultural reactions and folklore

Odd-eyed cats are popular within several breeds, including Turkish Van, Turkish Angora, and Japanese Bobtail.

In 1917, the government of Turkey, in conjunction with the Ankara Zoo, began a meticulous breeding program to preserve and protect pure white Turkish Angora cats with blue and amber eyes, a program that continues today, as they are considered a national treasure. The zoo specifically prized the odd-eyed Angoras that had one blue eye and one amber eye, as the Turkish folklore suggests that "the eyes must be as green as the lake and as blue as the sky."

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who founded the Republic of Turkey in 1923, declared that his successor would be bitten on the ankle by an odd-eyed white cat. This prediction dramatically increased the interest in odd-eyed white cats in Turkey.

Muhammad's pet Angora, Muezza, was reputed to be an odd-eyed cat.

In Japan, odd-eyed Japanese Bobtails are very popular and can carry a high price tag.

Deafness in odd-eyed cats

There is a common misconception that all odd-eyed cats are born deaf in one ear. This is not true, as about 60%–70% of odd-eyed cats can hear. About 10%–20% of normal-eyed cats are born deaf or become deaf as part of the feline aging process. White cats with one or two blue eyes do, however, have a higher incidence of genetic deafness, with the white gene occasionally causing the degeneration of the cochlea, beginning a few days after birth.

Eyeshine and red-eye effect

In flash photographs, odd-eyed cats typically show a red-eye effect in the blue eye but not in the other eye. This is due to the combined effect of the (normal) presence of a tapetum lucidum in both eyes and the absence of melanin in the blue eye. The tapetum lucidum produces eyeshine in both eyes but in the non-blue eye a layer of melanin over the tapetum lucidum selectively removes some colors of light.

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Giant Panda Information

The Giant Panda , literally meaning "cat-foot black-and-white") is a mammal native to central-western and south western China. The Giant Panda is a member of the Ursidae (bear) family. It is easily recognized by its large, distinctive black patches around the eyes, over the ears, and across its round body. Though it belongs to the order Carnivora, the Giant Panda's diet is 99% bamboo. Other parts of its diet include honey, eggs, fish, yams, shrub leaves, oranges, and bananas when available.

The Giant Panda lives in a few mountain ranges in central China, mainly in Sichuan province, but also in the Shaanxi and Gansu provinces. Due to farming, deforestation, and other development, the Giant Panda has been driven out of the lowland areas where it once lived.

The Giant Panda is a conservation reliant endangered species. A 2007 report shows 239 Giant Pandas living in captivity inside China and another 27 outside the country. Wild population estimates vary; one estimate shows that there are about 1,590 individuals living in the wild, while a 2006 study via DNA analysis estimated that this figure could be as high as 2,000 to 3,000. Some reports also show that the number of Giant Pandas in the wild is on the rise. However, the IUCN does not believe there is enough certainty yet to reclassify the species from Endangered to Vulnerable.

While the dragon has historically served as China's national emblem, in recent decades the Giant Panda has also served as an emblem for the country. Its image appears on a large number of modern Chinese commemorative silver, gold, and platinum coins. Though the Giant Panda is often assumed to be docile, it has been known to attack humans, presumably out of irritation rather than predatory behavior.


The Giant Panda has a black-and-white coat. Adults measure around 1.5 m long and around 75 cm tall at the shoulder. Males are 10–20% larger than females. Males can weigh up to 150 kg (330 pounds). Females are generally smaller than males, and can occasionally weigh up to 125 kg (275 pounds). The Giant Panda lives in mountainous regions, such as Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi.

The Giant Panda has a body shape typical of bears. It has black fur on its ears, eye patches, muzzle, legs, arms and shoulders. The rest of the animal's coat is white. Although scientists do not know why these unusual bears are black and white, some speculate that the bold coloring provides effective camouflage into its shade-dappled snowy and rocky surroundings. The Giant Panda's thick, wooly coat keeps it warm in the cool forests of its habitat. The Giant Panda has large molar teeth and strong jaw muscles for crushing tough bamboo.

The Giant Panda's paw has a "thumb" and five fingers; the "thumb" is actually a modified sesamoid bone, which helps the Giant Panda to hold bamboo while eating. Stephen Jay Gould used this example in his book of essays concerned with evolution and biology, The Panda's Thumb.

The Giant Panda has the second longest tail in the bear family, with one that is 4–6 inches (150 mm) long. The longest belongs to the Sloth Bear.

The Giant Panda can usually live to be 25–30 years old in captivity.


In the wild, the Giant Panda is a terrestrial animal and primarily spends its life roaming and feeding in the bamboo forests of the Qinling Mountains and in the hilly Sichuan Province. Though generally alone, each adult has a defined territory and females are not tolerant of other females in their range. Pandas communicate through vocalization and scent marking such as clawing trees or spraying urine. The Giant Panda is able to climb and take shelter in hollow trees or rock crevices but does not establish permanent dens. For this reason, pandas do not hibernate, which is similar to other subtropical mammals, and will instead move to elevations with warmer temperatures. Pandas rely primarily on spatial memory rather than visual memory.

Social encounters occur primarily during the brief breeding season in which pandas in proximity to one another will gather. After mating, the male leaves the female alone to raise the cub.


Despite its taxonomic classification as a carnivore, the Giant Panda has a diet that is primarily herbivorous, which consists almost exclusively of bamboo. However, the Giant Panda still has the digestive system of a carnivore and does not have the ability to digest cellulose efficiently, and thus derives little energy and little protein from consumption of bamboo. The average Giant Panda eats as much as 9 to 14 kg (20 to 30 pounds) of bamboo shoots a day. Because the Giant Panda consumes a diet low in nutrition, it is important for it to keep its digestive tract full. The limited energy input imposed on it by its diet has affected the panda's behavior. The Giant Panda tends to limit its social interactions and avoids steeply sloping terrain in order to limit its energy expenditures.

Two of the panda's most distinctive features, its large size and its round face, are adaptations to its bamboo diet. Panda researcher Russell Ciochon observed that: “[much] like the vegetarian gorilla, the low body surface area to body volume [of the giant panda] is indicative of a lower metabolic rate. This lower metabolic rate and a more sedentary lifestyle allow the giant panda to subsist on nutrient poor resources such as bamboo.” Similarly, the Giant Panda's round face is the result of powerful jaw muscles, which attach from the top of the head to the jaw. Large molars crush and grind fibrous plant material.

Twenty-five species of bamboo are eaten by pandas in the wild, such as Fargesia dracocephala and Fargesia rufa. Only a few bamboo species are widespread at the high altitudes pandas now inhabit. Bamboo leaves contain the highest protein levels; stems have less.

Because of the synchronous flowering, death, and regeneration of all bamboo within a species, the Giant Panda must have at least two different species available in its range to avoid starvation. While primarily herbivorous, the Giant Panda still retains decidedly ursine teeth, and will eat meat, fish, and eggs when available. In captivity, zoos typically maintain the Giant Panda's bamboo diet, though some will provide specially formulated biscuits or other dietary supplements.


The giant panda genome was sequenced in 2009 using a next-generation sequencing technology. Its genome contains 20 pairs of autosomes and one pair of sex chromosomes.


For many decades the precise taxonomic classification of the Giant Panda was under debate because it shares characteristics of both bears and raccoons. However, molecular studies suggest that the Giant Panda is a true bear and part of the Ursidae family, though it differentiated early in history from the main ursine stock. The Giant Panda's closest ursine relative is the Spectacled Bear of South America. The Giant Panda has been referred to as a living fossil.

Despite the shared name, habitat type, and diet, as well as a unique enlarged bone called the pseudo thumb (which helps them grip the bamboo shoots they eat), the Giant Panda and Red Panda are only distantly related. Molecular studies have placed the Red Panda in its own family Ailuridae, and not under Ursidae.


Two subspecies of Giant Panda have been recognized on the basis of distinct cranial measurements, color patterns, and population genetics (Wan et al., 2005).

  • The nominate subspecies Ailuropoda melanoleuca melanoleuca consists of most extant populations of panda. These animals are principally found in Sichuan and display the typical stark black and white contrasting colors.
  • The Qinling Panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca qinlingensis is restricted to the Qinling Mountains in Shaanxi at elevations of 1300–3000 m. The typical black and white pattern of Sichuan Giant Pandas is replaced with a dark brown versus light brown pattern. The skull of A. m. qinlingensis is smaller than its relatives, and it has larger molars.

Uses and human interaction

In the past, pandas were thought to be rare and noble creatures – the mother of Emperor Wen of Han was buried with a panda skull in her vault. The grandson of Emperor Taizong of Tang is said to have given Japan two pandas and a sheet of panda skin as a sign of goodwill. Unlike many other animals in Ancient China, pandas were rarely thought to have medical uses. The few known uses include the Sichuan tribal peoples' use of panda urine to melt accidentally swallowed needles, and the use of panda pelts to control menses as described in the Qin Dynasty encyclopedia Erya.

The Giant Panda was first made known to the West in 1869 by the French missionary, Armand David, who received a skin from a hunter on March 11, 1869. The first Westerner known to have seen a living Giant Panda is the German zoologist Hugo Weigold, who purchased a cub in 1916. Kermit and Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., became the first foreigners to shoot a panda, on an expedition funded by the Field Museum of Natural History in the 1920s. In 1936, Ruth Harkness became the first Westerner to bring back a live Giant Panda, a cub named Su-Lin who went to live at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago. These activities were halted in 1937 because of wars; for the next half of the century, the West knew little of pandas.

Panda diplomacy

Loans of Giant Pandas to American and Japanese zoos formed an important part of the diplomacy of the People's Republic of China in the 1970s, as it marked some of the first cultural exchanges between the People's Republic and the West. This practice has been termed "Panda Diplomacy".

By 1984, however, pandas were no longer used as agents of diplomacy. Instead, China began to offer pandas to other nations only on 10-year loans. The standard loan terms include a fee of up to US$1,000,000 per year and a provision that any cubs born during the loan are the property of the People's Republic of China. Since 1998, due to a WWF lawsuit, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service only allows a U.S. zoo to import a panda if the zoo can ensure that China will channel more than half of its loan fee into conservation efforts for the Giant Panda and its habitat.

In May 2005, China offered a breeding pair to Taiwan. The issue became embroiled in cross-Strait relations—both over the underlying symbolism, and over technical issues such as whether the transfer would be considered "domestic" or "international," or whether any true conservation purpose would be served by the exchange. China's offer was initially rejected by President Chen of Taiwan. However when the presidency changed hands China's offer was accepted at the beginning of Ma Ying-jeou's presidency in 2008, and the pandas themselves arrived in December of that year. A contest to name the pandas was held in China, resulting in the politically charged names "Tuan Tuan" and "Yuan Yuan" (from tuanyuan, meaning "reunion").


The Giant Panda is an endangered species, threatened by continued habitat loss and by a very low birthrate, both in the wild and in captivity.

The Giant Panda has been a target for poaching by locals since ancient times, and by foreigners since it was introduced to the West. Starting in the 1930s, foreigners were unable to poach Giant Pandas in China because of the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Chinese Civil War, but pandas remained a source of soft furs for the locals. The population boom in China after 1949 created stress on the pandas' habitat, and the subsequent famines led to the increased hunting of wildlife, including pandas. During the Cultural Revolution, all studies and conservation activities on the pandas were stopped. After the Chinese economic reform, demand for panda skins from Hong Kong and Japan led to illegal poaching for the black market, acts generally ignored by the local officials at the time.

Though the Wolong National Nature Reserve was set up by the PRC government in 1958 to save the declining panda population, few advances in the conservation of pandas were made, due to inexperience and insufficient knowledge of ecology. Many believed that the best way to save the pandas was to cage them. As a result, pandas were caged at any sign of decline, and suffered from terrible conditions. Because of pollution and destruction of their natural habitat, along with segregation due to caging, reproduction of wild pandas was severely limited. In the 1990s, however, several laws (including gun control and the removal of resident humans from the reserves) helped the chances of survival for pandas. With these renewed efforts and improved conservation methods, wild pandas have started to increase in numbers in some areas, even though they still are classified as a rare species.

In 2006, scientists reported that the number of pandas living in the wild may have been underestimated at about 1,000. Previous population surveys had used conventional methods to estimate the size of the wild panda population, but using a new method that analyzes DNA from panda droppings, scientists believe that the wild panda population may be as large as 3,000. Although the species is still endangered, it is thought that the conservation efforts are working. As of 2006, there were 40 panda reserves in China, compared to just 13 reserves two decades ago.

The Giant Panda is among the world's most adored and protected rare animals, and is one of the few in the world whose natural inhabitant status was able to gain a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. The Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries, located in the southwest Sichuan province and covering seven natural reserves, were inscribed onto the World Heritage List in 2009.

Not all conservationists agree that the money spent on conserving pandas is money well spent. Chris Packham has argued that breeding pandas in captivity is "pointless" because "there is not enough habitat left to sustain them", a point of view with which David Bellamy agrees, pointing out that even the WWF accepts that "there is no longer enough land for them to live on". Packham argues that the money spent on pandas would be better spent elsewhere, and has said that he would "eat the last panda if I could have all the money we have spent on panda conservation put back on the table for me to do more sensible things with," a comment for which he has since apologized. He points out that "The panda is possibly one of the grossest wastes of conservation money in the last half century. The panda is, unfortunately, virtually unsavable. It lives in the most overpopulated country in the world, it feeds on plants when it ought to be eating partially meat, it transfers all sorts of nasty diseases among itself, it tastes nice and it's got a coat that looks good on someone's back".


Initially the primary method of breeding Giant Pandas in captivity was by artificial insemination, as they seemed to lose their interest in mating once they were captured. This led some scientists to try extreme methods such as showing them videos of giant Pandas mating and giving the males Viagra. Only recently have researchers started having success with captive breeding programs, and they have now determined that Giant Pandas have comparable breeding to some populations of the American Black Bear, a thriving bear family. The current reproductive rate is considered one young every two years.

Giant Pandas reach sexual maturity between the ages of four and eight, and may be reproductive until age 20. The mating season is between March and May, when a female goes into her estrous cycle which lasts for two or three days and only occurs once a year. When mating, the female is in a crouching, head-down position as the male mounts her from behind. Copulation time is short, ranging from thirty seconds to five minutes, but the male may mount her repeatedly to ensure successful fertilization. The gestation period ranges from 95 to 160 days. Cubs weigh only 90 to 130 grams (3.2 to 4.6 ounces), which is about 1/900 of the mother's weight. Usually, the female gives birth to one or two cubs. Since cubs are born very small and helpless, they need the mother's undivided attention, so she is able to care for only one of her cubs. She usually abandons one of her cubs, and it dies soon after birth. At this time, scientists do not know how the female chooses which cub to raise, and this is a topic of ongoing research. The father has no part in helping raise the cub.

When the cub is first born, it is pink, furless, and blind. A Giant Panda cub is also extremely small, and it is difficult for the mother to protect it because of the baby's size. It nurses from its mother's breast 6 to 14 times a day for up to 30 minutes at a time. For three to four hours, the mother may leave the den to feed, which leaves the cub defenseless. One to two weeks after birth, the cub's skin turns gray where its hair will eventually become black. A slight pink color may appear on cub's fur, as a result of a chemical reaction between the fur and its mother's saliva. A month after birth, the color pattern of the cub's fur is fully developed. A cub's fur is very soft and coarsens with age. The cub begins to crawl at 75 to 90 days; mothers play with their cubs by rolling and wrestling with them. The cubs are able to eat small quantities of bamboo after six months, though mother's milk remains the primary food source for most of the first year. Giant Panda cubs weigh 45 kg (99.2 pounds) at one year, and live with their mothers until they are 18 months to two years old. The interval between births in the wild is generally two years.

In July 2009, Chinese scientists confirmed the birth of the first cub to be successfully conceived through artificial insemination using frozen sperm. The cub was born at 07:41 on 23 July that year in Sichuan as the third child of You You, an 11-year-old. The technique for freezing the sperm in liquid nitrogen was first developed in 1980 and the first birth was hailed as a solution to the problem of lessening Giant Panda semen availability which had led to in-breeding. It has been suggested that panda semen, which can be frozen for decades, could be shared between different zoos to save the species. It is expected that zoos in destinations such as San Diego in the United States and Mexico City will now be able to provide their own semen to inseminate more Giant Pandas.

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Rare White Lion Information

The white lion is occasionally found in wildlife reserves in South Africa and is a rare color mutation of the Kruger subspecies of lion (Panthera leo krugeri). It has been perpetuated by selective breeding in zoos around the world. White lions are not a separate subspecies and they have never been common in the wild. Regarded as divine by locals, white lions first came to public attention in the 1970s in Chris McBride's book The White Lions of Timbavati. The greatest population of white lions are in zoos where they are deliberately bred for color. The population of the white lion is unknown but the most recent count was in 2004 and 30 were alive. White lions are not albino lions. Instead, the white color is caused by a recessive gene known as chinchilla or color inhibitor. They vary from blonde through to near white, however some can also be red. This coloration gives white lions a distinct disadvantage in nature because they are highly visible. This gives them away to their prey and makes them an attractive target for hunters. According to Linda Tucker, in "Mystery of the White Lions - Children of the Sun God" they are bred in camps in South Africa as trophies for canned hunts.

Breeding white lions

The chinchilla mutation, a recessive gene, gives white lions their unusual colors. A similar gene also produces white tigers. White lions can therefore be selectively bred for zoos and animal shows. Such breeding involves inbreeding of close relatives and can result in inbreeding depression (genetic defects, reduced fertility, and physical defects) although this has not yet been recorded in white lions in zoos it has in white tigers. According to Tucker, white lions in canned hunt camps have been found to have hind-limb paralysis and serious heart defects, indicating a severe level of inbreeding involved in mass-production although they are rare in the wild.People are concerned about the White Lions mating with regular lions.

Timbavati white lions

White lions were first recorded in 1928 and in the early 1940s. In 1959, a pride with two white cubs was seen near Tshokwane in Kruger National Park, but later vanished. Albino lions had been recorded in the area according to David Alder ton's book "Wild Cats Of The World". In 1974, a light Grey lion cub was born at Birmingham Zoo, Alabama.

In 1975, two white cubs were seen at Timberland Game Reserve, adjacent to Kruger National Park. Their story is detailed by Chris McBride in his book "The White Lions of Timbavati". The two cubs, Temba (Zulu for "hope") and Tombi ("girl") had a tawny brother called Vela ('surprise'). In 1975, a white female cub called Phuma ("to be out of the ordinary") was sighted in the Timberland pride.

A few months later Temba, Tombi, and Vela (who carried the recessive white mutation) were taken to the National Zoo in Pretoria, South Africa. Temba sired several cubs. Tombi had a white cub in 1981, it was low in health but survived. Vela sired a litter, they grew up to be strong unusually one out of the 4 cubs was white while the rest were almost blonde. The white lions in the Ouwehands Dierenpark (Netherlands) and a private South African Zoo appear to be from Temba, or possibly Vela, lines. A few other white or blond cubs were born in Timberland after Temba, Tombi, and Vela were removed. Another white lion bloodline, possibly part of the Timbavati bloodline, comes from a white male captured in the Timberland area in the late 1980s and kept by a private reserve.

Temba has left descendants in captivity. A heterozygous tawny lion at Pretoria Zoo carries the mutation and most likely pass this on to his offspring. Two heterozygous tawny males from the Cincinnati Zoo are now at a private reserve in Africa. A white female and a heterozygous tawny male were sent to the Zoological Animal Reproduction Center in Indiana, USA. A second female was put together with another but didn't get along so they were separated for some time until they were comfortable in their surroundings.

Kruger and Umfolozi white lions

In 1979, three litters containing white lions were recorded in Kruger National Park. In March, a female lion with three white cubs was observed near Tshokwane. In September, three white cubs (from two different lionesses) were seen. Another litter of white female cubs was captured from Kruger National Park and treated for sarcoptic mange. A white lion was od in the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve in Zululand. hellooo :)

White lions of unknown ancestry

  • A white lion breeding program is currently underway at Inkwenkwezi Private Game Reserve in South Africa's Eastern Cape province.
  • Four white lion cubs were born at the Papanack Park Zoo outside Ottawa, but did not resub-adults) have since been released into the main reserve with the other tawny lions. Queen has since given birth to a further 3 white lion cubs. Continuous monitoring by the Wildlife Department at Sanbona has ensured their white lions are still wild, well, and free.

Jurques Zoo in France

In May 2007 four white lion cubs were born at Jurques Zoo in France. The cubs consisted of one male and three females. Each cub weighed approximately 1.5 kilograms (3.3 pounds) at birth, and all four were in good health. However, they needed to be hand fed because their mother was not taking proper care of them.

White lions are only found in Africa and are kept in zoos. There are only 20 in the world as counted in 2008.

White lion genetics

White lions are not albinos but are leucistic. They have pigment visible in the eyes (which may be the normal hazel or golden color, blue-gray, or green-gray), paw pads and lips. Blue-eyed white lions exist and may be selectively bred. The leucistic trait is due to the chinchilla mutation that inhibits the deposition of pigment along the hair shaft, restricting it to the tips. The less pigment there is along the hair shaft, the paler the lion. As a result "white" lions range from blonde through to near white. The males have pale manes and tail tips instead of the usual dark tawny or black. The Latin name of Panthera leo krugeri is not limited to white lions. It applies to all South African lion subspecies; the prides of which are mostly located in Kruger National Park and nearby game reserves.

White lions are not albino as they have pigmentation which shows particularly in eye, paw pad and lip colour. The correct term for their condition is leucism, a state where there is near-normal eye colour, but loss of pigment in the skin and fur.

The cause of the unusual colouration is the same as for the white tiger. A recessive gene which results in the white appearance is found in a very small number of captive lions.

White specimens usually have a yellowish-brown or golden eye color which is very similar to their tawny cousins, though some have bluish coloring like the white tiger.

White lions in the wild within their natural endemic range

In 2003, the Global White Lion Protection Trust (WLT) initiated the first ever reintroduction of white lions to their natural endemic range - the Greater Timbavati region in South Africa. Preliminary results have shown that the hunting success of the white lion pride was comparable to or higher than the wild prides ('normal' coloured / tawny) of the Timbavati itself (Turner 2005, Turner in prep.). This pride of "all" white lions has shattered the misperception that white lions cannot hunt successfully (within their natural endemic habitat) due to a perceived lack of camouflage. The long-term objective of the WLT is to restore the natural balance by reintroducing an integrated pride/s of white and tawny lions within their endemic range. White lions are a unique contribution to the biodiversity of the region and are revered by the local communities that hold them sacred.

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Black Panther

A black panther is a large black cat. Black panthers are melanistic color variants of several species of larger cat. Wild black panthers in Latin America are black jaguars (Panthera onca), in Asia and Africa black leopards (Panthera pardus), and in North America may be black jaguars or possibly black cougars (Puma concolor – although this has not been proven to have a black variant), or smaller cats.

Black panthers are also reported as cryptids in areas such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, and for these (if they do exist) the species is not known. Captive black panthers may be black jaguars, or more commonly black leopards. Black panthers have sometimes been regarded as forming different species from their normally-colored relatives.

The name "panther" is often limited to the black variants of the species, but is also used to refer to those which are normally-colored for the species (tawny or spotted), or to white color variants: white panthers.


Melanism in the jaguar (Panthera onca), is conferred by a dominant allele, and in the leopard (Panthera pardus) by a recessive allele. Close examination of the color of these black cats will show that the typical markings are still there, but are hidden by the excess black pigment melanin, giving an effect similar to that of printed silk. Melanistic and non-melanistic animals can be littermates. Albino or leucistic individuals of the same species are known as white panthers.

It is thought that melanism may confer a selective advantage under certain conditions since it is more common in regions of dense forest, where light levels are lower. Recent, preliminary studies also suggest that melanism might be linked to beneficial mutations in the immune system.

Melanistic leopards

Black leopards are reported from most densely forested areas in southwestern China, Myanmar, Assam and Nepal, from Travancore and other parts of southern India and are said to be common in Java and the southern part of the Malay Peninsula where they may be more numerous than spotted leopards. They are less common in tropical Africa, but have been reported from Ethiopia (formerly Abyssinia), from the forests of Mount Kenya and from the Aberdares. One was recorded by Peter Turnbull-Kemp in the equatorial forest of Cameroon. Skin color is a mixture of blue, black, gray, and purple with rosettes.

In captivity

Melanistic leopards are the most common form of black panther in captivity and they have been selectively bred for decades in the zoo and exotic pet trades. Black leopards are smaller and more lightly built than normally-pigmented individuals.

It is a myth that black leopards are often rejected by their mothers at an early age because of their color. In actuality, poor temperament has been bred into the captive strains as a side-effect of inbreeding and it is this poor temperament that leads to problems of maternal care in captivity. According to Funk and Wagnalls' Wildlife Encyclopedia, captive black leopards are less fertile than normal leopards, with average litter sizes of 1.8 and 2.1, respectively. This is likely due to inbreeding depression.

In the early 1980s, the Glasgow Zoo, in Scotland, acquired a 10 year old black leopard, nicknamed the Cobweb Panther, from the Dublin Zoo in Ireland. She was exhibited for several years before being moved to the Madrid Zoo, in Spain. This leopard had a uniformly black coat profusely sprinkled with white hairs as though draped with spider webs. The condition appeared to be vitiligo; as she aged, the white became more extensive. Since then, other "cobweb panthers" have been reported and photographed in zoos.

Melanistic jaguar

In jaguars, the melanism allele is dominant. Consequently, black jaguars may produce either black or spotted cubs, but a pair of spotted jaguars can only produce spotted cubs. The gene is incompletely dominant: individuals with two copies of the allele are darker (the black background colour is more dense) than individuals with just one copy, whose background colour may appear to be dark charcoal rather than black.

The black jaguar was considered a separate species by indigenous peoples. W H Hudson wrote:

The jaguar is a beautiful creature, the ground-colour of the fur a rich golden-red tan, abundantly marked with black rings, enclosing one or two small spots within. This is the typical colouring, and it varies little in the temperate regions; in the hot region the Indians recognise three strongly marked varieties, which they regard as distinct species – the one described; the smaller jaguar, less aquatic in his habits and marked with spots, not rings; and, thirdly, the black variety. They scout the notion that their terrible "black tiger" is a mere melanic variation, like the black leopard of the Old World and the wild black rabbit. They regard it as wholly distinct, and affirm that it is larger and much more dangerous than the spotted jaguar; that they recognise it by its cry; that it belongs to the terra firma rather than to the water-side; finally, that black pairs with black, and that the cubs are invariably black. Nevertheless, naturalists have been obliged to make it specifically one with Felis onca [Panthera onca], the familiar spotted jaguar, since, when stripped of its hide, it is found to be anatomically as much like that beast as the black is like the spotted leopard.

A black jaguar, named "Diablo", was inadvertently crossed with a lioness, named "Lola", at the Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary in Barrie, Canada. The offspring were a charcoal black jaglion female and a tan-colored, spotted jaglion male. It therefore appears that the jaguar melanism gene is also dominant over normal lion coloration (the black jaguar sire was presumably carrying the black on only one allele). In preserved, stuffed specimens, black leopards often fade to a rusty color but black jaguars fade to chocolate brown color.

Melanistic cougars

There are no authenticated cases of truly melanistic cougars. Melanistic cougars have never been photographed or shot in the wild and none have ever been bred. There is wide consensus among breeders and biologists that the animal does not exist.

Black cougars have been reported in Kentucky and in the Carolinas. There have also been reports of glossy black cougars from Kansas, Texas and eastern Nebraska. These have come to be known as the "North American black panther". Sightings are currently attributed to errors in species identification by non-experts, and by the memetic exaggeration of size.

Black panthers in the American Southeast feature prominently in Choctaw folklore where, along with the owl, they are often thought to symbolize Death.

In his Histoire Naturelle (1749), Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, wrote of the "Black Cougar":

"M. de la Borde, King’s physician at Cayenne, informs me, that in the [South American] Continent there are three species of rapacious animals; that the first is the jaguar, which is called the tiger; that the second is the couguar [sic], called the red tiger, on account of the uniform redness of his hair; that the jaguar is of the size of a large bull-dog, and weighs about 200 pounds [90 kg]; that the cougar is smaller, less dangerous, and not so frequent in the neighbourhood of Cayenne as the jaguar; and that both these animals take six years in acquiring their full growth. He adds, that there is a third species in these countries, called the black tiger, of which we have given a figure under the appellation of the black cougar. The head is pretty similar to that of the common cougar; but the animal has long black hair, and likewise a long tail, with strong whiskers. He weighs not much above forty pounds [18 kg]. The female brings forth her young in the hollows of old trees."

This "black cougar" was most likely a margay or ocelot, which are under 40 pounds (18 kg) in weight, live in trees, and do have melanistic phases.

Another description of a black cougar was provided by Pennant:

Black tiger, or cat, with the head black, sides, fore part of the legs, and the tail, covered with short and very glossy hairs, of a dusky colour, sometimes spotted with black, but generally plain: Upper lips white: At the corner of the mouth a black spot: Long hairs above each eye, and long whiskers on the upper lip: Lower lip, throat, belly, and the inside of the legs, whitish, or very pale ash-colour: Paws white: Ears pointed: Grows to the size of a heifer of a year old: Has vast strength in its limbs.-- Inhabits Brasil and Guiana: Is a cruel and fierce beast; much dreaded by the Indians; but happily is a scarce species;
Pennant's Synops. of quad., p 180

According to his translator Smellie (1781), the description was taken from two black cougars exhibited in London some years previously.

Reports of "black panthers" in the United States

In Florida, a few melanistic bobcats have been captured; these have also apparently been mistaken for panthers. Ulmer (1941) presents photographs and descriptions of two animals captured in Martin County in 1939 and 1940. In the photographs, they appear black, and one of the hunters called them black.

The Academy specimen, upon close examination, is far from black. The most heavily pigmented portions are the crown and dorsal area. In most lights these areas appear black, but at certain angles the dorsal strip has a decidedly mahogany tint. The mahogany coloring becomes lighter and richer on the sides. The underparts are lightest, being almost ferruginous in color. The chin, throat and cheeks are dark chocolate-brown, but the facial stripes can be seen clearly. The limbs are dark mahogany. In certain lights the typical spot-pattern of the Florida bobcat can be distinctly seen on the side, underparts and limbs. The Bronx Park animal appears darker and the spots are not visible, although the poor light in the quarantine cage may have been the reason.

Adult male bobcats are 28–47 inches (71–120 cm) long, with a short, bobbed tail, and are 18–24 inches (46–61 cm) tall at the shoulder. Females are slightly smaller. Florida panthers are 23–32 inches (58–81 cm) at the shoulder and 5–7 feet (1.5–2.1 m) long, including the tail. Bobcats weigh 16–30 pounds (7.3–14 kg) while Florida panthers are 50–150 pounds (23–68 kg).

Another possible explanation for black panther sightings is the jaguarundi, a cat very similar genetically to the cougar, which grows to around 30 inches (76 cm) long with an additional 20 inches (51 cm) of tail. Their coat occurs in a reddish-brown phase and a dark grey phase. While their acknowledged natural range ends in southern Texas, a small breeding population was introduced to Florida in the 1940s, and there are rumors of people breeding them as pets there as well. In Central America, they are known as relatively docile pets, as far as non-domesticated animals go. The male jaguarundi's home range can be up to 100 square kilometres (40 sq mi) while the female's home range can be up to 20 square kilometres (8 sq mi). It has been suggested that very small populations of jaguarundi, which rarely venture out of deep forests, are responsible for many or most of the supposed black cougar sightings. While they are significantly smaller than a cougar, differently colored, and much lower to the ground (many note a resemblance to the weasel), memory bias could explain many of the sightings in the southeastern U.S.

Another possibility would be the black jaguar which ranged into North America in historical memory. Melanistic jaguars are uncommon in nature and, significantly, jaguars in general were persecuted to near-extinction in the 1960s. Though they do not look exactly like cougars, they have the requisite size; it is conceivable that there could be a breeding population hidden in, for example, the Louisiana bayou. The jaguar has had several (photographically) confirmed, and many unconfirmed, sightings in Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and southwest Texas, but not beyond that region. A black panther has recently been sighted north of Carnegie, Oklahoma.

Reports of black panthers in Australia

At the end of World War 2, United States soldiers re-stationed in Australia reportedly brought back black panthers as mascots. Within weeks of arriving in Australia, an unreported number of panthers escaped into the bush. Today, black panther sightings are frequently recorded in rural Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia, and sightings are being recorded closer and closer to urban areas. It has been suggested that the panthers mated with feral domestic cats, although in fact the domestic cat cannot hybridise with any of the panther species. The Australian "phantom panthers" are said to be responsible for the disappearances and deaths of numerous cats, dogs and livestock.

In March 2003, Kenthurst teenager Luke Walker suffered deep cuts that he claims resulted from being attacked by a large cat in the driveway of his home at night. There have been numerous sightings from "credible witnesses" such as pilots and police officers as well as a compilation of over 600 reports. However, testimonials do not constitute reliable evidence.

Animal X Natural Mysteries Unit lead an investigation into the phantom panther. They discovered that scats and hair found by locals and sent to a lab came back as dog scat which had feasted on swamp wallaby and hair that had come from a domestic cat. In an experiment, the Animal X team sent in leopard scat and hair collected from a private zoo. These samples came back with the same results.

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Hyacinth Macaw, the largest Parrot in the world

Native to central and eastern South America, the Hyacinth Macaw, or Hyacinthine Macaw, is the largest macaw and the largest flying parrot species in the world, though the flightless Kakapo of New Zealand can outweigh it at up to 3.5 kg. In terms of length it is larger than any other species of parrot. While generally easily recognized, it can be confused with the far rarer Lear's Macaw. Their popularity as pets has taken a heavy toll on their population in the wild.


The Hyacinth Macaw is 100 cm (39 in) long and 1.5–2 kg (3.3-4.4 lb) in weight. The wingspan is 120–140 cm (48–56 in). It is almost entirely blue and has black under the wings. It has a large black beak with bright yellow along the sides of the lower part of the beak and also yellow circling its eyes. The female and male are nearly indistinguishable, although the female is typically a bit more slender.


Food and feeding

They have a very strong beak for eating their natural foods, which include the kernel of hard nuts and seeds. Their strong beaks are even able to crack coconuts and macadamia nuts. In addition, they eat fruits and other vegetable matter. Pine nuts are also one of the most popular foods. They will also take snails.


These birds nest in existing holes in trees. The clutch size is one or two eggs, although usually only one fledgling survives as the second egg hatches several days after the first, and the smaller fledgling cannot compete with the first born for food. Juveniles stay with their parents until they are three months old. They are mature and begin breeding at seven years of age. Eggs are regularly predated by corvids, possums, coatis and (most prolifically) toucans. Adults have no known natural predators.

Distribution and habitat

The Hyacinth Macaw survives today in three main populations in South America: In the Pantanal region of Brazil, and adjacent eastern Bolivia and northeastern Paraguay, in the Cerrado region of the eastern interior of Brazil (Maranhão, Piauí, Bahia, Tocantins, Goiás, Mato Grosso and Minas Gerais), and in the relatively open areas associated with the Tocantins River, Xingu River, Tapajós River, and the Marajó island in the eastern Amazon Basin of Brazil. It is possible that smaller, fragmented populations occur in other areas. It prefers palm swamps, woodlands, and other semi-open wooded habitats. It usually avoids dense humid forest, and in regions dominated by such habitats, it is generally restricted to the edge or relatively open sections (e.g. along major rivers).


The Hyacinth Macaw is an endangered species due to overcollection for the cage bird trade and habitat loss. Annual grass fires set by farmers can destroy nest trees, and regions previously inhabited by this macaw are now unsuitable due to cattle-ranching, hydroelectric power schemes, agriculture and plantations. Locally, it has been hunted for food, and the Kayapo Indians of Gorotire in south-central Brazil use its feathers to make headdresses and other baubles. While overall greatly reduced in numbers, it remains locally common in the Brazilian Pantanal, where a specific program, the Hyacinth Macaw Project, among others involving artificial nests and awareness campaigns, has been initiated by several ecolodges, and many ranch-owners now protect the macaws on their land.

The Minnesota Zoo with BioBrasil and World Wildlife Fund are involved in Hyacinth Macaw conservation.

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