Black leopard captured for first time in 100 years by Brit photographer

Nellie Chapman
February 13, 2019

'Collectively these are the first confirmed images in almost 100 years of black leopard in Africa, and this region is the only known spot in all of Africa to have black leopard'. The team of biologists had placed remote wildlife cameras to track the leopard population in Laikipia County past year when they heard unconfirmed reports of a possible black leopard sighting.

"Even when you talk to the older guys that were guides in Kenya many years ago, back when hunting was legal [in the 1950s and '60s], there was a known thing that you didn't hunt black leopards".

Black Panther has been everywhere in recent years - but spotting one of the animals the famous superhero is named after in the African wilderness is a little more rare.

He used specialist equipment including wireless motion sensors, high-quality DSLR cameras and two to three flashes.

Perhaps you're like me, and the first thing you thought when you saw the pics was, 'How the shit did he get that close to it?' Well, wonder no more.

"This is not just because leopards are extremely secretive and hard to see, but also because only a tiny percentage of leopards are completely black".

The black leopard is one majestic looking cat.

A wildlife photographer captured an image of a black leopard late at night, something that's fairly uncommon among wildlife enthusiasts.

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He said he left his cameras outside for several nights.

"I had a quick look at the last trap, not expecting to find much", he said. "I couldn't believe it and it took a few days before it sank in that I had achieved my dream", he writes.

Nicholas Pilfold, from the institute for conservation research at the San Diego Zoo, is the author of an article in the African Journal of Ecology about the new photographic evidence captured by Burrard-Lucas.

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".

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. It's the opposite of albinism - and although the leopard's coat appears black during the day, its rosette patterns are visible in nighttime infrared imagery.

In Africa, however, melanistic leopards are extremely rare. Black panthers in the Americas would be black jaguars.

"A black panther is basically a melanistic big cat".

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