Press Release: Mysterious black leopards finally reveal their spots

Leopards, found from the frozen forests of Russia to the scorching sands of the Kalahari Desert, are the most widely distributed large cat on earth. Their iconic spotted coat has been admired and coveted by humans for millennia. However, in just one region in their vast range, mysteriously the leopards are almost all entirely “black” or melanistic – the Malay Peninsula. This dark colouration sometimes hides the spotted pattern which all leopards have; the spots just don’t stand out clearly in melanistic individuals.


“This is a completely unique phenomenon for leopards, and represents perhaps the only known example of a mammal with almost an entire population completely composed of the melanistic form of the species” says Laurie Hedges, lead author of a study who just published a population density estimate on these animals in the Journal of Wildlife Management.

Melanism is a trait which can be found across many mammal species, and especially in big felids. Though theories, ranging from the explosion of Mount Toba in Sumatra to competition with tigers, have been put forward to explain how this unique melanistic population has come about, scientists are still puzzled…

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Project update 16: Harimau muda!

No, this is not an update on the fortunes of Malaysia’s youth football team, affectionately named Harimau Muda.

Instead, this is the first update on one of Rimba’s youngest (‘muda’ in Bahasa Melayu) projects – Harimau Selamanya!

This newest project only hit the ground running in February and is still very much in its infancy. However, it has been a challenging and eventful last four months!

At the beginning of April, this project began with a one-week tiger sign survey workshop conducted by Panthera (Drs. Joe Smith and Rob Pickles) for research officers (Hakim, Khairul, Fauzi, Alim, Hafiz, Amirul) from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) and researchers (Wai Yee, Laurie, Jasdev and Reuben) and field assistants from Rimba.

Field assistants Uda, Rasul and Daha sniffing out and marking a tiger spray on a leaf. Scent spraying is a very common form of communication among tigers. The liquid used in spraying is not pure urine; it is mixed with scent gland secretions.

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Video update 4: In celebration of Earth Day

Earth Day 2013 logo

Today is Earth Day. Around the world, numerous communities have organised an entire week of activities focused on environmental issues. If you can, dedicate this day, or even this week, to do some good for this planet. Re-use. Recycle. Check to see if your timber, paper, coffee and seafood originate from environmentally-friendly sources. Bring your own shopping bag. Limit your use of plastic. Most importantly, limit your overall consumption. Reduce! If you are followers of our website and Facebook page, you are probably already doing most of this. But if you are not, tsk tsk! Remember, it’s not too late to change your habits 🙂

To celebrate this occasion, we are launching a 2-minute video that pays tribute to the forests and wildlife in one of Rimba’s project sites – the Kenyir Wildlife Corridor. The first video is in English and the second is in Bahasa Malaysia. Please share this with as many people as you can to raise public awareness of the threats facing Kenyir’s and Malaysia’s rainforests.



Saving Mother Earth requires more than just changing our lifestyles. It’s also about fighting to ensure we have enough biodiversity left so that our forests can function optimally. Healthy rainforests are needed to stem the tide of climate change and to provide us with important ecosystem services. We need a jungle out there.

In the Kenyir Wildlife Corridor Project, we are still trying to improve the protection of this corridor by working with the Terengganu state government to gazette the corridor as a protected area and to enhance anti-poaching efforts.

To find out how you can help this and other Rimba projects, click here.