Black leopard spotted in Africa for first time in 100 years

Melanistic leopard

What happened: Photographer Will Burrard-Lucas released extremely rare images that he captured in Africa of the black leopard, known as a black panther in Africa and Asia, walking around at night.

"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".

After learning that several had been spotted in the Laikipia area of Kenya - the only area thought to have black leopards in all of Africa - he chose to investigate further and set up an expedition this January.

According to Nat Geo, the last recorded sighting of a wild black panther in Africa was in Ethiopia in 1909.

British publication The Guardian reports that Nicholas Pilfold, from the institute for conservation research at the San Diego Zoo, has written an article in the African Journal of Ecology about the new photographic evidence captured by Burrard-Lucas. His team of biologists had placed remote wildlife cameras to track the leopard population near Loisaba Conservancy in Laikipia County a year ago when they heard unconfirmed reports of a possible black leopard sighting.

Pilford was then told of a black leopard at the Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya - an area not known for the creature. All I can see is eyes but this is a black leopard emerging from the darkness.

"The opposite of albinism, melanism is the result of a gene that causes a surplus of pigment in the skin or hair of an animal so that it appears black".

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Pilfold is part of a team from the San Diego Zoo working with local partners, including the Kenya Wildlife Service, to monitor leopard populations in the area to help preserve the species.

Burrard-Lucas used a Camtraptions Camera Trap that included wireless motion sensors, which pick up animals movements in the dark.

In a video documenting his photography expedition, Burrard-Lucas filmed himself going to check the camera.

"I left the cameras for several more nights".

The Brit said he couldn't believe it when he returned to one of the traps one day and saw a black leopard staring back at the camera lens.

While checking his equipment, the photographer continues: "Scrub hare, mongoose... we have something".

"I can't believe it really. Just the most stunning, spectacular creature I think I've ever photographed!" "Melanistic leopards have been reported in and around Kenya for decades, but scientific confirmation of their existence remains quite rare", states National Geographic on their website.

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