Black leopard spotted in Africa for first time in 100 years

Leroy Wright
February 13, 2019

The creature - which nearly has a mythical status - was captured by British wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas, 35, while it was prowling around the plains of Kenya in the dead of night with a full moon looming above.

A wildlife photographer captured an image of a black leopard late at night, something that's fairly uncommon among wildlife enthusiasts. Steve confirmed that it was true and he had seen several black leopards over the years.

Nine subspecies of leopard range across Africa and Asia, but melanistic versions of the cats are not evenly distributed between them.

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

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.

A black leopard raised in captivity at the The Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve in Johannesburg.

This is the first time that one has been caught on camera "properly" in Africa for 100 years.

In a blog post, Will Burrard-Lucus tells the story of hearing how a black leopard had been sighted in Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya.

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Its wide eyes can be seen looking eagerly for prey, while leopard-like spots can vaguely be seen on its sooty coat, which is the result of melanism.

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

A black leopard is defined as the melanistic colour variant of any big cat species. He checked them and saw multiple photos of hyenas, but not a leopard.

After meeting with locals who had seen the animals, and following leopard tracks, Burrard-Lucas set up a Camtraptions camera trap that included wireless motion sensors, in the hope of photographing the animals at night.

In a video documenting his photography expedition, Burrard-Lucas filmed himself going to check the camera.

Will captured a spotted leopard on one of the camera traps, which could be the black leopard's dad.

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.

"I can't believe it really". (Supplied) The Camtraptions camera trap used to capture the animal. "Melanistic leopards have been reported in and around Kenya for decades, but scientific confirmation of their existence remains quite rare", states National Geographic on their website.

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