AFTER 12 weeks of prolonged period of palliative care Exmoor Zoo is sad to announce the death of ‘Zoysa’, the last captive black (melanistic) leopard in the UK.

A zoo spokesperson said: ‘Zoysa had reached a good age of 18 years of which the last 13 of these have been spent with us at Exmoor.

‘He outlived his wife Ebony who died last year again to age related natural causes.’

Danny Reynolds the Zoo’s director and trustee said: ‘Zoysa was a special one-of-a-kind leopard.

‘Hand reared by Jimmy Club in 2004 he just absolutely loved people and was always waiting for visitors to entertain him as they walked around the zoo.

‘His death will leave a big hole especially for those keepers and volunteers who have cared for him over the years.’

Captive black leopards date back to the Victorian era and seem to be the archetypal ‘big cat’ that purportedly still roam free in the UK. Over the years their sightings have decreased but even today reliable reports of their sightings still occur.

The zoo says it will enter a respectful period of mourning and over this winter a decision will be made if we will continue with this species. There are a relative few (less than five in European zoos) and the enclosure opened by Mr. Trevor Beer M.B.E a former local renown naturalist will be refurbished during the winter.

‘A sad day but also one to celebrate a life well lived and to remember all the joy and fascination he bought to our visitors.’