Elusive black leopard spotted in Kenya for first time in 100 years

Blanche Robertson
February 13, 2019

"Collectively these are the first confirmed images in almost 100 years of black leopard in Africa, and this region is the only known spot in all of Africa to have black leopard".

His photographs show a black leopard prowling through Laikipia Wilderness Camp in the plains of Kenya, below a full moon.

They are believed to be the first images of the animal in more than 100 years.

According to National Geographic, the extremely rare animal has melanism, where the body produces too much pigment.

The wildlife snapper took the unusual images using a Camtraptions Camera Trap - a camera which has a motion sensor to detect when animals are there. I think when I started this project I didn't actually think I was going to be able to achieve a shot of a black leopard in Africa but that it is exactly what is here on the back of my camera. On returning, I checked them and by the time I got to the last camera, all I had seen were pictures of hyenas but no leopards.

"On the second day, we managed to spot the black leopard crossing the road in front of us".

He said he left his cameras outside for several nights.

Recounting the moment via his photography blog, Burrard-Lucas writes: '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!

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Nine subspecies of leopard range across Africa and Asia, but melanistic versions of the cats are not evenly distributed between them.

While there have been reports of sightings of black leopards the last confirmed observation was in Ethiopia more than a century ago, he said. 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.

Burrard-Lucas had heard reports of black leopard sightings, such as the one published in January in the African Journal of Ecology by San Diego Zoo Global researchers.

"This is what Will's photos and the videos on our remote cameras now prove, and are exceptionally rare in their detail and insight".

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.

"Coincidentally, our observations are very close to where the fantasy Marvel comic country of Wakanda is suggested to be located", he said.

"A black panther is basically a melanistic big cat".

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