Another rare black Leopard spotted in Laikipia, Kenya

Laikipia Wilderness Camp

Laikipia Wilderness Camp

While there have been previous reports of sightings of black leopards in Africa - they're also known as black panthers - the new images offer important confirmation.

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

An ultra-rare black leopard - with a silky-looking, shiny coat - was spotted in Africa for the first time in more than 100 years, and the wildlife photographer who captured the elusive big cat credits the sighting simply to dumb luck.

Capturing those pictures was quite a feat, Burrard-Lucas said, and he was frustrated that many outlets missed the point and distorted the story.

"I couldn't believe it", Burrard-Lucas writes in a blog post.

It's thought that melanism provides additional camouflage in those habitats, giving the predators an advantage when it comes to hunting, says Vincent Naude, leopard genetic forensics project coordinator for the nonprofit Panthera, who was not involved with this research.

The elusive black leopard has been spotted.

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Pilford said he's "aware of a few different photos taken over the years, but majority are taken from a distance and could not be used as confirmatory evidence".

In a video documenting his photography expedition, Burrard-Lucas filmed himself going to check the camera.

The cat, a young female, gets her rare colouration from melanism, an excess of colour pigmentation that happens across a number of big cat species, but more commonly in Asian and South American cats.

The animal - whose coat is sooty black as a result of melanism, the opposite of albinism - is extremely rare. 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. "For many years, they remained the stuff of dreams and of farfetched stories told around the campfire at night".

These black-coated leopards were sighted by Burrard-Lucas in Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya, where he been camping since January.

However, he went on to note that he's "not claiming that these are the first photos of a black leopard taken in Africa". While common in subspecies native to tropical forests, on the open savannah they are very rare.

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