A black leopard has been spotted in Africa for first time in 100 years. The team of biologists had placed remote wildlife cameras to track the leopard population in Laikipia County previous year when they heard unconfirmed reports of a possible black leopard sighting. "As I scrolled through the images on the back of the camera, I paused and peered at the photograph below in incomprehension ... a pair of eyes surrounded by inky darkness ... a black leopard!"
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.
After meeting with locals who had seen the animals, and following leopard tracks, Burrard-Lucas set up a Camtraptions camera trap that included wireless motion sensors, in the hope of photographing the animals at night. Shrinking habitats and scarce resources due to human activity have made the black leopard even more rare since then.
It took about four days before he finally got his big break and captured a wild black leopard, an accomplishment that hasn't been equalled in possibly a century.
The opposite of albinism, this rare genetic variation causes a surplus of pigment in an animal's skin or hair.
Nick Pilfold, a San Diego Zoo global scientist, said they captured the footage after months of watching and waiting. He checked them and saw multiple photos of hyenas, but not a leopard.
This doesn't mean the big cat is totally black though, with Mr Burrard-Lucas' pictures revealing typical markings hidden within the leopard's glossy, sooty coat. (Supplied) The Camtraptions camera trap used to capture the animal. I think when I started this project I didn't actually think I was going to be able to achieve a shot of a black leopard in Africa but that it is exactly what is here on the back of my camera.
According to Nat Geo, the last recorded sighting of a wild black panther in Africa was in Ethiopia in 1909.
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.
Will captured a spotted leopard on one of the camera traps, which could be the black leopard's dad.
"A black panther is basically a melanistic big cat".
Speaking to Kenyans.co.ke, Annabelle Carey was audibly excited when asked about the rare sighting of the melanistic leopard close to their camp.