Picture of a black panther walking along the roof of a building in Armentieres, near Lille, France

This is a genuine black panther. It is not that big because the cat is 6-months-of-age. The cat is a melanistic jaguar or leopard. It is more likely to be a leopard. The cat was owned illegally by a French person and has been captured and tranquillised.

Black panther on roof in France
Black panther on roof in France. Photo: Sapeurs-pompiers du Nord
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‘Black panther’ does not describe a species of wild cat. The term applies to melanistic (a genetic mutation causing the usual coat color to go charcoal black) big cats. It can apply to the leopard, jaguar or puma. The jaguar and leopard are very similar and in this picture it is almost impossible to tell if the cat is one or the other. Normally when people refer to a black panther they are probably referring to the jaguar but they are rarer which is why I have decided that this cat is a sub-adult leopard.

We don’t know how the person acquired the cat. Perhaps it was smuggled in as a very young cub. They are small enough to be smuggled. There is a terrible trade in exotic cats which has a very detrimental impact on the conservation of these beautiful cats in the wild. It is getting worse despite the words we hear from politicians and the like. The situation will deteriorate further over time. I’ll guarantee it.

The picture is very unusual because it is genuine. Almost always these sorts of ‘big cat sightings’ in urban environments or in the countryside in Europe are domestic cats in dark conditions. The reality of this photo provided by the firefighters (by the Sapeurs-pompiers du Nord on September 19, 2019) is startling.

Tranquillised black panther in France
Tranquillised black panther in France. Photo: Sapeurs-pompiers du Nord.

Immediately above is another photo by the Sapeurs-pompiers du Nord of the tranquillised cat after capture. The cat went back into his home through a window and the firefighters closed the window and then entered the what looks like an apartment to tranquillise the cat. I have no idea what will happen to him/her. He looks domesticated which indicates he was raised as a cub. He’ll probably end up in a zoo and be miserable.

Lille is in northern France near Belgium.


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