Published: Wed, February 13, 2019
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Elusive black leopard spotted in Kenya for first time in 100 years

Elusive black leopard spotted in Kenya for first time in 100 years

But a British wildlife photographer has become the first person to photograph the black leopard in more than a century.

Photographer Will Burrard-Lucas couldn't have been luckier when a big black cat crossed his path while snapping wildlife in Kenya last month.

They are believed to be the first images of the animal in more than 100 years.

"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".

He used specialist equipment including wireless motion sensors, high-quality DSLR cameras and two to three flashes. I think when I started this project I didn't actually think I was going to be able to achieve a shot of a black leopard in Africa but that it is exactly what is here on the back of my camera.

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According to National Geographic, biologist Nick Pilfold captured the rarest of big cats in a camera trap set up in Loisaba Conservancy after a tip that a "panther " had been seen several times in that area.

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.

Black leopards are usually associated with dense forests where their dark colouration is thought to help them hide in the shadows.

Burrard-Lucas had heard reports of black leopard sightings, such as the one published in January in the African Journal of Ecology by San Diego Zoo Global researchers.

Working in collaboration with biologists in the area, Burrard-Lucas went about installing camera traps.

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The wild African black leopard has been the stuff of legend and campfire story for decades.

Will has left his cameras at the park in Kenya and is flying back in a few weeks to see what else they've picked up - but time to get more pictures is running out.

Pilfold also pointed out the the location of the sighting is near where Marvel comics located its fictional country Wakanda, home of the character Black Panther.

In a video documenting his photography expedition, Burrard-Lucas explains: "As far as I know none of these leopards has been photographed properly in Africa before".

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

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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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