Stunning images capture rare black leopard in Africa

Lamar Ellis
February 13, 2019

Kenya has cemented its place as a natural tourist destination after scientists documented an extremely rare black leopard in Laikipia.

Burrard-Lucas told MailOnline Travel that it had been his dream to photograph the black leopard since childhood.

It took about four days before he finally got his big break and captured a wild black leopard, an accomplishment that hasn't been equalled in possibly a century.

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

Nicholas Pilfold PhD, a biologist with San Diego Zoo Global who is now researching leopards at Laikipia's Loisaba Conservancy and helped Burrard-Lucas with his photography project, confirmed that the recent on-camera sighting was extremely rare.

This is the first time that one has been caught on camera "properly" in Africa for 100 years.

Will Burrard-Lucas captured the images, which were released to the public on Monday, at the Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya after hearing reports of sightings in the area.

Melanism is the opposite of albinism: it's when a gene is selected that causes a surplus of pigment instead of its absence, resulting in a black-on-black fur, although the patterns of the animals are often still discernible, as in Pilford's photo of the panther.

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A black leopard lounging at the The Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve.

After meeting with locals who had seen the animals, and following leopard tracks, Burrard-Lucas set up a Camtraptions camera trap that included wireless motion sensors, in the hope of photographing the animals at night.

Black leopards are usually associated with dense forests where their dark colouration is thought to help them hide in the shadows. (Supplied) The Camtraptions camera trap used to capture the animal.

He said he left his cameras outside for several nights.

Nicholas Pilfold PhD, a lead researcher for a leopard conservation program in Laikipia County, Keyna, said: "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".

Melanistic leopards are iconic creatures with a movie themed around the mythical animal interestingly based within the hypothetical land of "Wakanda" in East Africa, the same region in which the actual black panther was spotted and captured on camera. "Just the most stunning, spectacular creature I think I've ever photographed!"

There are nine leopard subspecies located from Africa all the way to eastern Russian Federation.

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