Saturday, 23 February, 2019

A rare black African leopard

Melanistic leopard Melanistic leopard
Melinda Barton | 13 February, 2019, 16:11

An extremely rare black leopard, also known as the black panther, has been recently spotted in Kenya, which marks the first recorded sighting of the elusive animal in over a 100 years on the African soil.

As I scrolled through the images on the back of the camera, I paused and peered at the photograph below in incomprehension... a pair of eyes surrounded by inky darkness... a black leopard!

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.

Slinking through the darkness, these stunning images show an ultra-rare black leopard in action.

"This is what Will's photos and the videos on our remote cameras now prove, and are exceptionally rare in their detail and insight", Nicholas Pilford, scientist at San Diego Zoo Global and lead researcher for a leopard conservation program in Laikipia County, tells USA Today.

Will heard rumours of a black panther - which is a loose term for a black leopard or black jaguar, depending where in the world it's from - at the Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya.

The opposite of albinism, this rare genetic variation causes a surplus of pigment in an animal's skin or hair.

Black leopards are usually associated with dense forests where their dark colouration is thought to help them hide in the shadows. "The only place where we have black leopards is where this place in the Marvel Universe appears to exist".

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

The wildlife snapper took the unusual images using a Camtraptions Camera Trap - a camera which has a motion sensor to detect when animals are there.

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

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

According to the National Geographic the black leopard captured by Mr Pilfold in 2018 has melanism and the last such sighting was in 1909.

Published in the African Journal of Ecology, the photos represent the first scientific documentation of such a creature in Africa in almost a century.

The high quality system made it possible to see the majestic black leopard, a big cat which is rarely caught on camera.