Black Panther spotted in Kenya for the first time in 100 years

13 February, 2019, 16:10 | Author: Wade Massey
  • Melanistic leopard

A wildlife photographer from the United Kingdom has captured images of a black leopard in Kenya.

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.

His dream was to capture one of the rarest of African big cats - the mythical black leopard.

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

"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".

After deploying camera traps, which take photos when they detect motion in front of them, in the Loisaba Conservancy in central Kenya in early 2018, Pilfold soon had his proof: a juvenile female leopard, with black skin and black spots, wandering through the brush.

The black leopard was spotted near Loisaba Conservancy in Laikipia by biologist Nick Pilfold.

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.

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While albinism causes whiteness due to a lack of pigmentation, the genetic variation melanism results in an excess of dark pigmentation.

In a video documenting his photography expedition, Burrard-Lucas filmed himself going to check the camera. "The only place where we have black leopards is where this place in the Marvel Universe appears to exist".

"This is not just because leopards are extremely secretive and hard to see, but also because only a tiny percentage of leopards are completely 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.

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

"Usually on these camera trap photos with the flash you see the animal very clearly".

It's easy to think of black panthers as animals in their own right, but Will says that's not the case.

Published in the African Journal of Ecology, the photos represent the first scientific documentation of such a creature in Africa in almost a century. "Melanistic leopards have been reported in and around Kenya for decades, but scientific confirmation of their existence remains quite rare", states National Geographic on their website.

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