Rare, elusive black leopard caught on camera in the wild

By Eddy Mwanza on 12 February 2019- 5:04 pm                              
  incredible
Laikipia Wilderness Camp Laikipia- Kenya Twitter

"Black panther" is the popular name for any big cat with melanism, the recessive genetic condition that causes a black coat.

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.

The leopard, spotted in Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya, has often been seen but getting pictures of it has proven to be very hard. He uses the Camtraptions motion sensor to trigger "a high quality DSLR or mirrorless camera and two or three flashes", he told Hyperallergic.

"Over the days that followed I moved the camera traps around as I gained a deeper understanding of the leopard's movements".

"I had a quick look at the last trap, not expecting to find much", he wrote on his blog. "I set up my camera traps up on this trail and it was there that I captured my first image of the black leopard".

"I don't think it sank in immediately what I'd managed to achieve, it was such an unusual subject.

If you saw them, you didn't take it", says Dr. Nicholas Pilfold who serves at the San Diego Zoo Global as a Scientist in Population Sustainability.

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Melanism is the opposite of albinism, and is classified as an extremely rare condition. There was a known thing that you didn't hunt black leopards.

A wildlife photographer captured an image of a black leopard late at night, something that's fairly uncommon among wildlife enthusiasts.

"Black panthers are iconic creatures and yet very few images of wild black panthers exist", said Mr Burrard-Lucas. How National Geographic reports that scientific confirmation of their existence remains rare.

Ever since Burrard-Lucas was a child, he's been fascinated by the lore and stories of the elusive black panther, and only dreamed of ever seeing one.

Pilfold said his team of biologists had placed remote cameras to track the leopard population near a conservancy area in Laikipia County past year when they heard reports of a possible black leopard sighting.

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

"In addition to confirming black panthers in Africa, our observations are unique because Laikipia is a semi-arid shrubland, and previous melanistic observations come from more shaded habitats in tropical forests, which is in keeping with the understanding that melanism is an adaptation to camouflage against dark backgrounds".

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