A team of biologists has discovered a very simple method that will help them detect the spots on the black leopards. By adjusting the light settings on their cameras, the scientists were able to see the usually hidden black leopard spots. By seeing their individual spots, the researchers could tell the animals apart and it will help them with the species’ conservation.
The researchers were studying the wild felines on the Malay Peninsula, where most of them are jet black leopards. Because of their very dark fur, the scientists found it very difficult to distinguish one black leopard from another, which was slowing down their research.
But at one point the researchers started to take photographs of the animals with the infrared flash on their cameras that were left in the forest. This simple trick helped the biologists see the balck leopard complex spots and fur patterns.
William Laurance, a researcher at the Australia’s James Cook University, and one of the biologists who was studying the animals, explained that it was absolutely by accident that they’ve discovered how to see the leopards’ spots. He said that all they had to do was to get the camera’s infrared to go off during the day, and it suddenly made the spots on the black fur visible. Laurance added that this will help their research a lot because all the spots have their unique design, which means they will be able to tell the black leopards apart.
According to the scientists, using this method while studying the wild felines in the north east side of Malaysia, allowed them to identify in an accurate mode more than 94% of the black leopards, which will help enormously with their conservation efforts.
Laurance explained the new method helps them with basic, fundamental things like how big is the black leopard population at the moment in Malaysia. Before they discovered this method, researchers had a difficult time because they were looking at the pictures of black leopards and couldn’t tell anything apart.
No one really knows for sure why the leopards are black in this region, but Laurance believes it is probably so they can better camouflage in the darker rainforests. He fears that more and more leopards are being killed and their body parts and skins are being sold on the black market.
The new research was done in collaboration with scientists from the University of Nottingham’s Malaysia Campus.
Image Source: dailytimes