Black Panther spotted in Kenya for the first time in 100 years

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

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

British wildlife photographer, Will Burrard-Lucas, on Monday, captured a series of high-quality images of a wild melanistic leopard (loosely referred to as a black panther) close to the Laikipia Wilderness Camp, Kenya.

Burrard-Lucas said it had been his dream to photograph the black leopard since childhood. However, as news of his find quickly spread across the continent, folks at the Ol Ari Nyiro Conservancy, about 30 miles west of Loisaba, produced their own photo of a black leopard, taken in 2007. "Black leopards in Africa are extremely rare, and prior to the observations in our published paper, the last confirmed observation was 1909 in Ethiopia".

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

Biologist, Nicholas Pilfold PhD, who assisted Mr Burrard-Lucas with his photography project, confirmed the extremely rare nature of the photographs.

"Since childhood I have been fascinated by stories of black leopards".

After deploying camera traps, which take photos when they detect motion in front of them, in the Loisaba Conservancy in central Kenya in early 2018, Pilfold soon had his proof: a juvenile female leopard, with black skin and black spots, wandering through the brush. "When I heard that a black leopard had been seen up at Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya my ears pricked up and I contacted the owners Steve and Annabelle Carey to find out more", Will revealed in his blog post.

A black leopard lounging at the The Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve. One has not been seen in the wild for 100 years
BarcroftA black leopard lounging at the The Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve. One has not been seen in the wild for 100 years

Contrary to popular belief, black panthers are not a species, the animals commonly referred to by these name are simply melanistic leopards and jaguars that have a mutation responsible for their dark or black coat.

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 creature - of nearly mythical status - was captured on film by Kenya-based biologist Nick Pilfold using specialist equipment including wireless motion sensors and high-quality DSLR cameras.

In a video documenting his photography expedition, Burrard-Lucas filmed himself going to check the camera. "So I've left the cameras for a few days and now I'm heading back to see if I've got anything".

Summing up the black leopard in three words, Burrard-Lucas said: 'They are truly stunning, lovely and elusive'.

The high quality system made it possible to see the majestic black leopard, a big cat which is rarely caught on camera.

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