Rare black leopard seen in Kenya

Rare black leopard seen in Kenya

A rare female black leopard has been captured on camera in central Kenya, the first photographed in the wild for more than 100 years.

As I scrolled through the images on the back of the camera, I paused and peered at the photograph below in incomprehension... a pair of eyes surrounded by inky darkness... a 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 made a decision to investigate further and set up an expedition this January.

In a video documenting his photography expedition, Burrard-Lucas explains: "As far as I know none of these leopards has been photographed properly in Africa before".

"In Africa, black leopards are incredibly rare and until now, the only images of them have been fleeting shots taken from great distance or graining images from low-quality trail cameras".

"Almost everyone has a story about seeing one; it's such a mythical thing", says Nick Pinfold, of San Diego Zoo Global's Institute for Conservation Research. "But as it blended in with the black night so well all I could see was these eyes staring out of the picture".

They are believed to be the first images of the animal in more than 100 years. The team of biologists had placed remote wildlife cameras to track the leopard population in Laikipia County a year ago when they heard unconfirmed reports of a possible black leopard sighting.

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The leopard - which is also referred to as a black panther - derives its dark coat from melanism, the opposite of albinism.

Also known as a "melanistic" leopards, these sleek felines have a mutation marked by a prevalence of dark pigment over light. These were placed in areas the black leopard was rumoured to frequent.

Working in collaboration with biologists in the area, Burrard-Lucas went about installing camera traps. He checked them and saw multiple photos of hyenas, but not a leopard.

Will took the unusual images using a Camtraptions Camera Trap - a camera which has a motion sensor to detect when animals are there.

He said he left his cameras outside for several nights.

According to the National Geographic the black leopard captured by Mr Pilfold in 2018 has melanism and the last such sighting was in 1909. "Just the most stunning, spectacular creature I think I've ever photographed!" The cat is so rare it has taken on an nearly mythical status, which is reflected by the fact the creature hadn't been photographed in Africa in nearly 100 years.

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