Kenya: First Photographs of An African Black Leopard in 100 Years

Melanistic leopard

Daily Nation photojournalist Phoebe Okall has disputed claims that photos of rare African black panther (black leopard) shot by Nick Pilfold, a global conservation scientist at the San Diego Zoo, were the first since 1909.

When Burrard-Lucas heard about possible sightings of a black leopard, also known as black panther or jaguar, at Laikipia Wilderness Camp, he went there to see it with his own eyes.

The leopard has a condition known as melanism, which makes the body produce an excess of pigment, turning her coat a deep, inky black.

Burrard-Lucas used a series of Camtraptions camera traps, a system he devised, that included a wireless motion sensor and a high-quality camera.

The big cat that he captured was confirmed as a juvenile female, travelling with a larger normally coloured leopard, thought to be its parent.

He's been fascinated with black panthers since he was a child, and in a blog post he said, "no animal is shrouded in more mystery, no animal more elusive and no animal more lovely".

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A photograph of that big black cat is stored at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

British publication The Guardian reports that Nicholas Pilfold, from the institute for conservation research at the San Diego Zoo, has written an article in the African Journal of Ecology about the new photographic evidence captured by Burrard-Lucas. He took several photos at night with the hope of capturing photos of a leopard.

'I couldn't believe it and it took a few days before it sank in that I had achieved my dream'. "[Scientists] believe these images are the first to show the characteristic rosette pattern on the leopard's coat, thus providing the first scientifically accepted proof in 100 years of a melanistic leopard in Africa".

Wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas captured photos of the animal and posted them on his website. "Black panther is a general term that covers any black big cat", Pilfold said.

Speaking to Kenyans.co.ke, Annabelle Carey was audibly excited when asked about the rare sighting of the melanistic leopard close to their camp.

For those who have watched the famous Black Panther movie, it is easy to think that just seeing the photo of such a lovely creature gives all manner of wakanda vibes. "It is likely that black leopards have been living in Kenya all along, it is only that high-quality imagery to confirm it has been missing until now", said Pilfold.

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