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Completely black lions? No, photos doctored

Three photos of what appear to be completely black lions have been posted on Facebook in South Africa.

Lions are generally yellow gold in colour, with manes that range from blonde to reddish-brown and black. Do the photos really show lions with black fur? We checked.

Black added to original photos

Using a reverse image search, we tracked the first photo to the website Leo Palmer Photography. It shows a male lion in Namibia with the normal yellow gold colour. The black version has been photoshopped.

We found the original of the second photo on the website Cute Home Pets. It shows a white lion. Again, the image on Facebook has been doctored. White lions do exist, but are rare.

The third photo has also been photoshopped to add the black colour. The original can be seen on the Shutterstock website, where it’s captioned: “An African lion standing on a mound, Namibia Africa”.

Animals with melanism

Melanin is the dark pigment found in skin, hair, feathers, scales, eyes, and some internal membranes of animals. Melanin is also responsible for people’s different skin tones, freckles and moles. 

Melanism is a surplus of melanin. A great example of an animal with the condition is the uniquely marked zebra in Maasai Mara, Kenya. 

Another example, National Geographic says, is several species of wildcat – jaguars, leopards, and bobcats – that carry the gene that causes melanism, causing the cats’ fur to be dark. – Taryn Willows


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