Results of molecular research indicate that the Javan leopard (Panthera pardus melas) is craniometrically distinct from other Asian leopard subspecies, and is a distinct taxon that split off from other Asian leopards hundreds of thousands of years ago.
Endemic to Java, this cat either has an orange coat with black rosettes and spots or a recessive phenotype resulting in an all black coat. Less than two hundred and fifty pure Javans are thought to remain in the wild. However, this estimate may be on the low side as the species is prone to melanism, and more may exist as having a 'black panther' appearance.
Leopards,in general, are larger and stockier than the cheetah but not as big as the jaguar. Expert climbers, they can run up to thirty-five miles per hour, bound over twenty feet forward and leap almost ten feet upwards. They are commonly seen draped over branches and fast asleep duirng the daytime when the sun is at its hottest.
Leopards remain solitary except when mating. The gestation period lasts roughly one hundred days, after which two to four cubs will be born. Sadly, only fifty percent will survive infancy and the infant mortality rate among Javen Leaopards is extremely high.
They are commonly found in Ujung Kulon National Park, Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park, Gunung Halimun National Park, Ceremai National Park, Merbabu National Park, Merapi National Park, Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, Meru Betiri National Park, Alas Purwo National Park and Baluran National Park. These versatile creatures can thrive in a variety of habitats ranging from dry deciduous forests to patches of dense tropical rainforest in the south-western part of the island, to the mountains and finally in scrub in the east. A survey conducted in 1990s showed they seemed to particularly prosper in the seral stages of successional vegetation patterns, which made them less susceptible, compared to many other mammals, to the disruptive activities of humans in the name of development.
A monitoring research was conducted from 2001 to 2004, in a 20 km2 (7.7 sq mi) area of Gunung Halimun National Park using camera traps and radio-tracking. Study area showed the presence of seven leopards. The total population was estimated at 42 to 58 individuals. Study also indicated that home range of an adult female covers about 9.82 km2 (3.79 sq mi).
The total remaining habitat for the Javan Leopard is thought to be only 2,267.9 to 3,277.3 km2 (875.6 to 1,265.4 sq mi).
The diet of the Javan Leopard consists mainly of barking deer, lesser mouse deer, wild boar and monkeys such as the crab-eating macaque, Javan gibbon and silvery lutung. Through diminishing habitat and depletion of their primary prey base, Javan leopards have been forced towards settlements and have been known to prey on domestic dogs, chickens, and goats.
Java is one of the most densely populated islands in the world. 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. 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.
Primary forests now remain only in the mountainous regions at elevations above 1,400 m (4,600 ft) with the island of Java having lost more than 90% of its natural vegetation. Threatened most significantly by loss of habitat, prey base depletion and poaching due to human population growth and agricultural expansion, efforts are being made to restore the Javan leopard population and prevent its extinction.
Efforts are being made to bring back the population of these handsome cats, which are already on the brink of extinction, much like the Javan tiger. Hunting laws are being strictly enforced. As a part of process Gunung Halimun National Park was enlarged to three times its original size for restoration of the Javan leopard, Javan gibbon and the Javan Hawk-eagle in 2005.
The Javan leopard (Panthera pardus melas) has remained on on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Critically Endangered since it was listed in 2008. It can also be found listed under CITES Appendix I. In Indonesia, the Javan leopard is classified as a protected species, and stringent hunting laws are strictly enforced.
From 2007, the Taman Safari zoo in Indonesia kept seventeen Javan leopards, seven male and ten female, of which four were breeding pairs. Javan leopards are also kept in the Indonesian zoos of Surabaya and Ragunan. Captive breeding programmes do exist, but are not widespread. However, there have been zoo births, making the future look a little brighter for the species as a whole.