Black leopard spotted in Africa for first time in 100 years

Melanistic leopard

Melanistic leopard

After learning that several had been spotted in the Laikipia area of Kenya - the only area thought to have black leopards in all of Africa - he chose to investigate further and set up an expedition this January.

What happened: Photographer Will Burrard-Lucas released extremely rare images that he captured in Africa of the black leopard, known as a black panther in Africa and Asia, walking around at night.

That's because the 35-year-old British wildlife photographer has captured pictures the likes of which have not been seen in almost a century.

Before Pilford's picture, the only confirmed sighting of a black leopard in Africa was a photograph taken in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1909. While albinism causes whiteness due to a lack of pigmentation, the genetic variation melanism results in an excess of dark pigmentation.

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

"Since childhood, I have been fascinated by stories of black panthers".

There isn't one. The black leopard could also be referred to as a black panther, as this is not a species but an umbrella term that simply refers to any big cat that has a black coat.

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"I couldn't believe it and it took a few days before it sank in that I had achieved my dream".

"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.

"When I heard that a black leopard had been seen up at Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya my ears pricked up and I contacted the owners Steve and Annabelle Carey to find out more", Will revealed in his blog post.

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. While common in subspecies native to tropical forests, on the open savannah they are very rare. He checked them and saw multiple photos of hyenas, but not a leopard.

There are nine leopard subspecies located from Africa all the way to eastern Russian Federation.

Melanistic leopards are iconic creatures with a movie themed around the mythical animal interestingly based within the hypothetical land of "Wakanda" in East Africa, the same region in which the actual black panther was spotted and captured on camera.

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