I had not heard of black leopards although I was aware of black panthers. “Black panther” is not a species of cat but a term which covers a number of different species of the felid genus Panthera. Black panthers are simply individual panthers which have a genotype causing a uniformly black colouration on their coats. 13 species of wild felids have been documented with black forms but, apart from the difference in colouration, they are still the same species as their patterned counterparts. In the infrared image below, for example, the leopard’s “rosette” spot patterns are clear.
Black panthers are rare, however, recent studies have shown that in one area of the world, the Malay Peninsula, black leopards are the dominant form of leopard. It is not known why black leopards make up nearly all the Malay Peninsula’s leopard population but it may be a combination of natural selection and genetics within the local population straying over time toward black individuals.