Friday, 22 February, 2019

A rare black African leopard

Image at Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya capured using Camtraptions Camera Trap by Will Burrard-Lucas Image at Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya capured using Camtraptions Camera Trap by Will Burrard-Lucas
Ellis Copeland | 13 February, 2019, 16:09

For the first time in a century, a rare melanistic leopard, commonly called a "black panther", has been photographed in Kenya.

It wasn't until he visited the Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya that he finally had an opportunity to take photos of the panther. 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.

Black Panther has been everywhere in recent years - but spotting one of the animals the famous superhero is named after in the African wilderness is a little more rare.

He says that he used a plethora of camera traps each consisting of a Camtraptions wireless motion sensor, a high-quality DSLR camera and two or three flashes.

This doesn't mean the big cat is totally black though, with Mr Burrard-Lucas' pictures revealing typical markings hidden within the leopard's glossy, sooty coat.

They weren't sure whether the tracks they were following were those of the black leopard or a regular spotted one.

Pilfold's trap paid off, resulting in a black and white portrait of the big cat slinking through the undergrowth.

Will captured a spotted leopard on one of the camera traps, which could be the black leopard's dad.

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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! Typically in Africa and Asia that would mean a melanistic leopard - a black leopard.

He explained: 'We had always heard about black leopard living in this region, but the stories were absent of high quality footage that could confirm their existence.

A black leopard raised in captivity at the The Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve in Johannesburg.

According to the National Geographic the black leopard captured by Mr Pilfold in 2018 has melanism and the last such sighting was in 1909.

The scientist at San Diego Zoo Global added: "This is what Will's photos and the videos on our remote cameras now prove, and are exceptionally rare in their detail and insight".

The black leopard could also be referred to as a black panther, as this is an umbrella term that simply refers to any big cat that has a black coat.

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

In Africa, however, melanistic leopards are extremely rare.

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