Extremely Rare Black Leopard Immortalized in Stunning Photos

Extremely Rare Black Leopard Immortalized in Stunning Photos

The black leopard, which gets it's distintive colour from the creation of excess melanin, is extremely rare, so photographer Will Burrard-Lucas really hit the jackpot.

Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper said a similar photograph was taken in 2013 by Phoebe Okall, but Pilfold and his team say otherwise.

After sharing photographic evidence of his impressive discovery, Burrard-Lucas was confirmed to be the first person to capture an African black leopard on camera in about a century.

He leads a conservation project in partnership with the San Diego Zoo and has been independently tracking leopards for a year and half. "And any black leopard in Africa and Asia is a type of black panther".

The African black panthers is so rare, scientists aren't even sure the genetic mutation is the same one found in Southeast Asia, Pilford said.

"It's exciting to see black leopards on our cameras - and more research into their melanism is needed, so we can understand why they occur here".

Will Burrard-Lucas says the black leopard could easily go undetected at night.

The leopard, spotted in Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya, has often been seen but getting pictures of it has proven to be very hard.

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Image Courtesy of BBC Earth / Photographer: Will Burrard-Lucas.

"The next day I eagerly checked the cameras but had no images of leopards", Burrard-Lucas wrote on his website.

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.

Pilford said he's "aware of a few different photos taken over the years, but a lot of them are taken from a distance and could not be used as confirmatory evidence".

Pilford told AFP that after receiving numerous reports of sightings of the leopard, his team set up eight camera traps in February 2018, and within three months had snapped a sub-adult female.

While the term black panther is a versatile phrase encompassing a number of big cats, it is most commonly used to describe melanistic, or black cats, also known as black leopards.

For those who have watched the famous Black Panther movie, it is easy to think that just seeing the photo of such a attractive creature gives all manner of wakanda vibes. "It is interesting cause the fictional country of Wakanda where Black Panther is set is meant to be, in the Marvel universe, in East Africa, not too far away from where we're working", said Pilfold.

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