Rare black leopard photographed for first time in 110 years

Rare black leopard photographed for first time in 110 years

Rare black leopard photographed for first time in 110 years

A wildlife photographer captured stunning images of a rare African black leopard, which would be among the first high-quality photos of such a creature on the continent.

The black leopard was spotted and photographed near Loisaba Conservancy in Laikipia by biologist Nick Pilfold, a discovery which cements Kenya as a natural tourist destination. Before Burrard-Lucas' efforts, researchers with the Institute of Conservation Research at San Diego Zoo Global and Kenya's Loisaba Conservancy published a study on January 29 confirming five sightings of a female black leopardess a year ago in Laikipia County, Kenya. "That was enough for me and I made a decision to invest some time in checking it out", he writes.

He used specialist equipment including wireless motion sensors, high-quality DSLR cameras and two to three flashes. Once the camera traps are all set up, they can be left alone for days or weeks at a time.

"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".

"I had a quick look at the last trap, not expecting to find much", he wrote on his blog.

The rare melanistic black leopard was photographed by wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas who later posted the pictures on his website.

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

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"Almost everyone has a story about seeing one, it's such a mythical thing", says Mr Pilfold, of San Diego Zoo Global's Institute for Conservation Research.

The leopard has a condition known as melanism, which makes the body produce an excess of pigment, turning her coat a deep, inky black.

His team recently published a paper in the African Journal of Ecology on their findings and he coordinated press releases to be timed with Burrard-Lucas' rare photos. The cat is so rare it has taken on an nearly mythical status, which is reflected by the fact the creature hadn't been photographed in Africa in nearly 100 years.

On his YouTube channel, Burrard-Lucas recounted his journey and how he managed to photograph the black leopard. "And any black leopard in Africa and Asia is a type of black panther".

Melanistic leopards have been reported in and around Kenya for decades. They're more commonly spotted in the jungles of Asia.

"In Africa, black leopards are incredibly rare and until now, the only images of them have been fleeting shots taken from great distance or graining images from low-quality trail cameras".

A black leopard is defined as the melanistic colour variant of any big cat species.

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