Zoo Buddy: Black Leopards!

Meet Emma! She's a Black Leopard at the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo in Monroe.
Published: Nov. 24, 2022 at 6:41 AM CST
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MONROE, La. (KNOE) - Meet Emma! She is a black leopard at the Louisiana Purchase Gardens & Zoo.

“These guys are the definition of super sneaky, so leopards are really cool cats they’re the only big cat that’s super widespread through Africa and Asia - even though research has shown black leopards in Africa and Asia are pretty different genetically,” explains Maria Foster, Carnivore Zookeeper at the zoo. “The leopards and the jaguars are the only big cats that we know of in the wild that have the melanism, so they have the darker melanin in their skin so they have black fur.”

Foster says the black leopards still have the traditional spots on them, they’re just not easily seen on the black fur. You can see them more when Emma walks into the sunlight.

Emma loves to interact with her exhibit and you’ll probably catch her playing with balls in the yard or rolling around on her back.

“Every cat has their own personality, and Emma - a lot of guests ask us about her fur being black but also her fur being kind of thin in spots,” says Lisa Taylor, General Curator at the zoo. “So there is a thing called alopecia in cats where a cat will overgroom itself. When a cat grooms itself, it’s releasing a hormone that’s a happy hormone and Emma tends to do this at nighttime when she’s in her night house. Although we provide her with enrichment and things like that, she tends to overgroom herself. She doesn’t know how to stop.”

Taylor says Emma does have some anxiety, so they do have a support animal for her.

“She has kind of an emotional support animal, his name is Sirius Black. So, he is just a domestic black cat who lives in the night house across from Emma,” says Foster.

You might even hear Sirius before you hear Emma because he is a loud one!

The zoo is open every day of the week between 10 a.m.-5 p.m.