NZ’s only black leopard put down at Kamo sanctuary

New Zealand’s only black leopard has had to be put down at Northland’s big cat park due to sudden poor health.

Kamo Wildlife Sanctuary, which recently went into liquidation, announced the death of Mandla on Tuesday night.

The team had lost a much-loved family member, the post said.

The big cat was just over 20 and had been very active up until a rapid decline in health in recent weeks, the sanctuary said on social media.

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“It was clear it was time to ensure he did not suffer and our options very limited. This was an incredibly difficult decision but the best for ‘Manni’.

“We hope he’s enjoying his favourite coffee, and chillin’ in his hammock,” the post said.

Black leopard Mandla was a very special big cat, says Big Cats director Janette Vallance. (File photo)

Rob Pine/Supplied

Black leopard Mandla was a very special big cat, says Big Cats director Janette Vallance. (File photo)

“We feel the loss deeply. It is up to us to give our best care and ensure the animals in our care do not suffer.”

When the park went into involuntary liquidation at the start of March, Big Cats director Janette Vallance​ said the cats’ welfare was unaffected by the financial situation

She said on on Wednesday the remaining big cats – 12 lions and two tigers – were “more than fine”.

“We have a small team at present doing an exceptional job.”

Mandla, 20, was New Zealand's only captive black leopard.

Kamo Wildlife Sanctuary/Supplied

Mandla, 20, was New Zealand’s only captive black leopard.

A Givealittle page has been set up to help fund carnivore supplements, medicines and basic skeleton staff with $5000 needed each week for those expenses.

Kamo Wildlife Sanctuary was made famous by “Lion Man” Craig Busch, who had a TV programme about his work at the park.

He handed control of the zoo to his mother Patricia Busch in 2006 but said in 2022 he wanted the cats back.

Mandla was the country’s only captive leopard, sometimes called a black panther.

Vallance previously said he was one of the most dangerous cats at the sanctuary if there was a mass escape, because of his speed.

The company’s website describes Mandla as a “sleek, magnificent, black attention-snatcher”, who would go into a frenzy over fresh-brewed coffee spray and loved to eat chicken.

“He’ll hold a conversation with you, as long as you can interpret his grunts and moans.”

Mandla was born at Heythrop Zoological Gardens in the United Kingdom in October 2002.

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