Published: Thu, February 14, 2019
Worldwide | By Angelina Lucas

Rare occurrence as black leopard is spotted in Laikipia County

Rare occurrence as black leopard is spotted in Laikipia County

Melanism is a genetic mutation like albinism, except it leads to a surplus in pigment that turns the fur or skin of an animal black.

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.

Burrard-Lucas was trying to spot the leopard for several days without success when he finally returned to his cameras to find a striking image.

So earlier this month, he set up his specialized Camtraptions camera traps which are set off by movement.

To underscore his point, Burrard-Lucas added an addendum to the blog post that started it all: "For clarification, I am not claiming that these are the first photos of a black leopard taken in Africa".

"I couldn't believe it and it took a few days before it sank in that I had achieved my dream".

Nicholas Pilfold, a scientist working on the San Diego Zoo Global's leopard conservation program in the area, says that getting any leopard on camera is a challenge. And on the fourth night, he was able to snap high-quality photos of a black leopard - a sight he couldn't believe that he caught with his cameras.

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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.

There are nine leopard subspecies located from Africa all the way to eastern Russian Federation. The elder told him he had seen a black leopard, which he said are known in the Samburu language as "calf killers".

After hearing about an exceedingly rare black panther lurking around central Kenya, a biologist and his team set out to capture her on film.

"Since childhood I have been fascinated by stories of black leopards". Before Burrard-Lucas' efforts, researchers with the Institute of Conservation Research at San Diego Zoo Global and Kenya's Loisaba Conservancy published a study on January 29 confirming five sightings of a female black leopardess past year in Laikipia County, Kenya. These were later revealed to be that of black leopard.

He complimented Burrard-Lucas's photos because "having images of that quality really hits home". Scientific confirmation of their existence remains quite rare though.

Pilfold also pointed out the the location of the sighting is near where Marvel comics located its fictional country Wakanda, home of the character Black Panther.

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