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Rare black leopard spotted in Kenya -- a first in Africa since 1909

13 February 2019, 04:09 | Devin Moran

Melanistic leopard

Melanistic leopard

While albinism causes whiteness due to a lack of pigmentation, the genetic variation melanism results in an excess of dark pigmentation.

A rare female black leopard has been captured on camera in central Kenya, the first photographed in the wild for more than 100 years.

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

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. The team of biologists had placed remote wildlife cameras to track the leopard population in Laikipia County a year ago when they heard unconfirmed reports of a possible black leopard sighting.

Burrard-Lucas told MailOnline Travel that it had been his dream to photograph the black leopard since childhood. All I can see is eyes but this is a black leopard emerging from the darkness.

The Guardian quotes Pilfold as saying that while there have been recorded reports of black leopards in Africa for more than a century, only one had been confirmed with photographic evidence, a 1909 photograph taken in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.




Pilfold is part of a team from the San Diego Zoo working with local partners, including the Kenya Wildlife Service, to monitor leopard populations in the area to help preserve the species.

The Brit said he couldn't believe it when he returned to one of the traps one day and saw a black leopard staring back at the camera lens. (Supplied) The Camtraptions camera trap used to capture the animal.

"We had always heard about black leopards living in this region, but the stories were absent of high quality footage that could confirm their existence", said Nicholas Pilfold PhD, lead researcher for a leopard conservation program in Laikipia County.

The photographer said: "I took the photos last month and believe the Black Panther, in this case a melanistic African leopard, is around two years old".

The black leopard's sighting was published in the African Journal of Ecology. 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.

That just makes the fact that Kenya, which seems to be the only place black panthers are found in Africa, is also near the location of the fictional country of Wakanda, home of the Marvel universe's Black Panther superhero, all the more striking.



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