The Javan leopard (Panthera pardus melas) is a leopard subspecies confined to the Indonesian island of Java and classified as critically endangered by IUCN since 2008. The population is estimated at less than 250 mature individuals, with a decreasing population trend. The total remaining habitat is estimated at only 2,267.9 to 3,277.3 km2 (875.6 to 1,265.4 sq mi).
The Javan leopard was initially described as being black with dark black spots and silver-grey eyes. Javan leopards have either a normal spotted coat, or a recessive phenotype resulting in an all black coat.
Distribution and habitat
Javan leopards are confined to the Indonesian island of Java. They are known to occur in Gunung Halimun National Park, Ujung Kulon National Park, Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park, Ceremai National Park, Merbabu National Park, Merapi National Park, Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, Meru Betiri National Park, Baluran National Park, and Alas Purwo National Park. They can thrive in a variety of habitats ranging from patches of dense tropical rainforest in the south-western part of the island, to the mountains, and to dry deciduous forests and scrub in the east. In the 1990s, they seemed to particularly thrive in the seral stages of successional vegetation patterns, which made them less susceptible than many other mammals to human's disruptive activities.
From 2001 to 2004, monitoring research has been conducted in a 20 km2 (7.7 sq mi) area of Gunung Halimun National Park using camera traps and radio-tracking. Seven leopards were identified in the study area. The total population was estimated at 42 to 58 individuals. Home range of an adult female was 9.82 km2 (3.79 sq mi).
Ecology and behavior
Two leopards were radio-collared in the Gunung Halimun National Park. Their daily activity pattern showed peaks in the early mornings between 6:00 and 9:00, and late afternoons between 15:00 and 18:00.
Their diet consists of barking deer, long-tailed macaques, silvered leaf monkey, wild boar, lesser mouse deer, and the Javan gibbon. Javan leopards will also look for food in close by villages and have been known to prey on domestic dogs, chickens, and goats.
Javan leopards are threatened by loss of habitat, prey base depletion and poaching due to human population growth and agricultural expansion. Conflict between local people and leopards is also considered to be a main threat to leopards. Java has lost more than 90% of its natural vegetation and is one of the most densely populated islands in the world. Primary forests remain only in the mountainous regions at elevations above 1,400 m (4,600 ft).
With 118.3 million people Java holds 59% of Indonesia’s total population living in 2,286 sq mi (5,920 km2). The human population density far exceeds most other island nation population densities.
Overall, efforts are being made to restore the population of these animals to prevent them from facing extinction, much like the Javan tiger. Hunting laws are strictly enforced. In 2005, Gunung Halimun National Park was enlarged to three times its original size for restoration of the Javan leopard, the Javan gibbon, and the Javan hawk-eagle.
To address the issue of Java’s over-population, and encroachment on habitat of protected species, the Indonesian government has formed a nationwide family planning program. This program makes contraceptive devices like condoms and several different forms of birth control pills more readily available to the public.
In 1997, there were 14 Javan leopards in European zoos. The Javan leopard is not specifically managed in captive breeding programs in Europe and America. As of 2007, the Taman Safari zoo in Bogor, Indonesia, kept 17 Javan leopards — seven males and 10 females, of which four were breeding pairs. The Indonesian zoos of Ragunan and Surabaya also keep Javan leopards.
Molecular research has suggested that Javan leopards are craniometrically distinct from leopards from the rest of Asia, and are a distinct taxon that split off from other Asian leopards hundreds of thousands of years ago. In the Middle Pleistocene, they may have migrated to Java from South Asia across a land bridge that bypassed Sumatra and Borneo.
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- Cuvier, G. (1809) Recherches sur les especes vivantes de grands chats, pour servir de preuves et d’éclaircissement au chapitre sur les carnassiers fossils. Annales du Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Tome XIV: 136–164.
- Santiapillai, C., Ramono, W. S. (1992). "Status of the leopard (Panthera pardus) in Java, Indonesia". Tiger Paper XIX (2): 1–5.
- Harahap, S., Sakaguchi, H. (2005) Ecological Research and Conservation of the Javan Leopard Panthera pardus melas in Gunung Halimun National Park, West Java, Indonesia. In: The wild cats: Ecological diversity and conservation strategy. The 21st Century Center of Excellence Program International Symposium. Okinawa, Japan.
- Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia in London, United Kingdom (2009). "A Solution to Java's Overcrowding". Retrieved December 8, 2009.
- Gippoliti, S., Meijaard, E. (2007). "Taxonomic uniqueness of the Javan Leopard: an opportunity for zoos to save it". Contributions to Zoology 76: 55–58.
- International Species Information System (2011). "ISIS Species Holdings: Panthera pardus melas, December 2011".
- Exner, O. (2013). "Rare Leopard in Prague Zoo". Portal of Prague, 20 May 2013.
- Meijaard, E. (2004). "Biogeographic history of the Javan leopard Panthera pardus based on craniometric analysis". Journal of Mammology 85 (2): 302–310. doi:10.1644/ber-010.
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