The elusive African black leopard is alive and well and living in Kenya – and there are stunning new pictures to prove it.
What is being described as the first documented sightings of a black panther in Africa in nearly 100 years, a team of biologists shot rare footage of the sleek big cat after spending months watching and waiting, Nick Pilfold told CNN, a global conservation scientist at the San Diego Zoo.
“It is certain black panthers have been there all along, but good footage that could confirm it has always been absent until now,” Pilfold said in an Instagram post.
The animal – whose coat is sooty black as a result of melanism, the opposite of albinism – is extremely rare.
British wildlife photographer, Will Burrard-Lucas captured the images, which were released to the public on Monday, at the Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya after hearing reports of sightings in the area.
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. With no luck after several days, Burrard-Lucas returned to his cameras to find a striking image.
“I had a quick look at the last trap, not expecting to find much,” Burrard-Lucas wrote on his blog. “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! I couldn’t believe it and it took a few days before it sank in that I had achieved my dream.”
The black leopard’s sighting was published in the African Journal of Ecology.