Tuesday, 23 April, 2019

Rare Animal Sighted in Kenya for the First Time in 100 Years

Melanistic leopard Melanistic leopard
Patty Aguilar | 13 February, 2019, 16:55

His dream was to capture one of the rarest of African big cats - the mythical black leopard.

His photographs show a black leopard prowling through Laikipia Wilderness Camp in the plains of Kenya, below a full moon.

Kenyan conservationist Paula Kahumbu said there have been many unconfirmed sightings of black leopards, but this is the first time one has been proven.

According to National Geographic, the extremely rare animal has melanism, where the body produces too much pigment.

Burrard-Lucas used a Camtraptions Camera Trap that included wireless motion sensors, which pick up animals movements in the dark. These were later revealed to be that of black leopard.

Image Courtesy of BBC Earth / Photographer: Will Burrard-Lucas.

Working in collaboration with biologists from San Diego Zoo in the area, Burrard-Lucas went about installing camera traps in a well-protected area where the black leopard was rumoured to frequent.

(Supplied) Black panthers are an umbrella term that refers to any big cat with a black coat.

'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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British publication The Guardian reports that Nicholas Pilfold, from the institute for conservation research at the San Diego Zoo, has written an article in the African Journal of Ecology about the new photographic evidence captured by Burrard-Lucas.

Black leopards are usually associated with dense forests where their dark colouration is thought to help them hide in the shadows.

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.

The big cat that he captured was confirmed as a juvenile female, travelling with a larger normally coloured leopard, thought to be its parent. "If you saw them, you didn't take it", Pilford told the magazine.

"I've spoken to a couple of safari guides who have seen black leopards in the Aberdares, one of them in the late 80s", she said.

There are nine leopard subspecies located from Africa all the way to eastern Russian Federation.

This is the second black panther to be spotted in Laikipia after a similar discovery was recorded by then Nation photojournalist Phoebe Okall in 2013 at Ol Jogi Conservancy.

"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".

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