Black Leopard Pictured In Africa For First Time In Nearly 100 Years

Black Leopard Pictured In Africa For First Time In Nearly 100 Years

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

Will Burrad-Lucas, 35, from Buckinghamshire, snapped the melanistic African leopard - which is around two-years-old - at Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya last month.

Most recorded sightings of black leopards or melanistic leopards are from the forests of Asia, but they are extremely rare in Africa.

"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".

The creature - of nearly mythical status - was captured on film by Kenya-based biologist Nick Pilfold using specialist equipment including wireless motion sensors and high-quality DSLR cameras.

While there may be reported sightings in Kenya, black leopards are still considered rare in the continent, Pilfold said.

Well, imagine that feeling times a bajillion, and you might have a sense of how Will Burrard-Lucas must be feeling.

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!

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.

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Steve confirmed that it was true and he had seen several black leopards over the years.

Nicholas Pilfold, from the institute for conservation research at the San Diego Zoo, is the author of an article in the African Journal of Ecology about the new photographic evidence captured by Burrard-Lucas.

"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".

"In South America it would be a melanistic jaguar - a black jaguar".

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.

The big cat was traveling with a much larger, more typically-colored yellow and black leopard, judged to be the juvenile's mother, Pilfold told National Geographic.

"Black leopards are iconic creatures and yet very few images of wild black leopards exist", he said.

There are nine leopard subspecies that are native to more than 25 African countries, according to the African Wildlife Federation (AFW).

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