The Big Cat Sanctuary in Kent, UK, was delivered a mini bundle of joy recently when its resident jaguar Keira gave birth to a cub. The little cub, however, came with a big surprise, being entirely black. While all-black jaguars aren’t unheard of, they are rare, making this birth – which is a boon to the species as a whole – all the more special.
Jaguars certainly put the big into big cats, being the largest in the Americas at an average length of around 2 meters (6 feet). They are famous for their enormous murder mittens (aka paws) and large heads complete with powerful jaws. While we might not fare so well against these impressive predators in hand-to-hand combat, their enormous size does come in handy when you just want to spend some time crooning over an adorable cub that’s made all the smaller by her mum’s enormous size.
Usually, their coats have the same orangey color seen in other big cats, only marked with distinctive dark rosettes. Sometimes, however, nature comes up with a unique design when cubs are born with a condition known as melanism. Seen in all corners of the animal kingdom (check out these velvety black seals), melanism is a condition that causes an excess of pigment, making animals appear much darker than usual. Only a small number of jaguars are born with melanism, making jet-black babies like this one quite the rarity. Big cats born with melanism are commonly referred to as black panthers, though they are typically jaguars or leopards, depending on where in the world you are.
Born on April 6, the little one is reported to be in good health and as playful as she is feisty, already having been filmed doing her best hissing attempts despite being so incredibly small. Not yet named, the Big Cat Sanctuary is running a competition to choose between the names Inka, Inti, or Killari with votes (submitted with a donation) entering you in for a chance to meet the cub in person as part of a VIP sanctuary tour.