Rare Black Leopard Spotted in Kenya

Melanistic leopard

Melanistic leopard

This wild black leopard was photographed with a Camtraptions camera trap in Laikipia Wilderness Camp, Kenya.

A British photographer got the surprise of a lifetime when he managed to snap rare photos of a black leopard in Africa - the only high-quality photos taken in over a hundred years.

This is the second black panther to be spotted in Laikipia after a similar discovery was recorded by then Nation photojournalist Phoebe Okall in 2013 at Ol Jogi Conservancy.

His dream was to capture one of the rarest of African big cats - the mythical black leopard.

He leads a conservation project in partnership with the San Diego Zoo and has been independently tracking leopards for a year and half. Typically in Africa and Asia that would mean a melanistic leopard - a black leopard.

The black leopard is one majestic looking cat. With their cameras, they caught first photographic evidence of a black leopard in Africa since 1909.

"Thereafter the black leopard disappeared and I started capturing images of a big spotty male instead - apparently he had chased away the younger black leopard".

Photographer Will Burrard-Lucas had heard murmurs about the potential presence of a black leopard roaming the area when he set up camp in Kenya.

According to reports by CNN, Pilfold and his team set their cameras in Laikipia after getting reports of the existence of the cat in Kenya.

"Almost everyone has a story about seeing one, it's such a mythical thing", says Mr Pilfold, of San Diego Zoo Global's Institute for Conservation Research.

A black leopard is defined as the melanistic colour variant of any big cat species. Black panthers in the Americas would be black jaguars. He complimented Burrard-Lucas's photos because "having images of that quality really hits home".

"This is not just because leopards are extremely secretive and hard to see, but also because only a tiny percentage of leopards are black".

The rare melanistic black leopard was photographed by wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas who later posted the pictures on his website.

The animal gets its jet black coat from melanism, a gene mutation that results in the overproduction of pigment, and while the panther's coat appears pitch black during the day, rosette patterns can be seen in nighttime infrared images. Black leopards are actually a type of black panther - made famous by the Marvel Comics character of that name. After a few months, Pilfold said the biologists "were rewarded with multiple observations on our cameras".

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