Rare PHOTOS of 'most elusive' black leopard captured in Africa
Wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas managed to make photos of the beautiful black leopard in Kenya – and scientists believe it's the first time that high-quality images of the cat have been captured since Ethiopia in 1909.
After hearing reports of a possible black leopard sighting in Laikipia Wilderness Camp last year, the photographer together with the team of biologists from San Diego Zoo set up Camtraptions Camera Traps to watch the leopard population.
“Within a few months, we were rewarded with multiple observations on our cameras,” San Diego Zoo scientist Nick Pilfold said, CNN reports. The black leopard was seen with a larger, ordinary-colored leopard, believed to be her mother.
“Collectively, these are the first confirmed images in nearly 100 years of a black leopard in Africa, and this region is the only known spot in all of Africa to have black leopards,” Pilford said.
“For me, no animal is shrouded in more mystery, no animal more elusive, and no animal more beautiful,” photographer Will Burrard-Lucas said. “For many years, they remained the stuff of dreams and of far-fetched stories told around the campfire at night. Nobody I knew had ever seen one in the wild and I never thought that I would either.”
The rare leopard’s black coat is the result of a condition called melanism. Although she appears to be pitch black, infrared cameras revealed the traces of leopard patterns on her coat. Only around 11 percent of leopards have this condition, and they are largely in South East Asia.
While these images of the animal are being touted as the first in a century, local media outlet the Daily Nation reported that photographer Phoebe Okall got a picture of a black leopard called Bagheera at the Ol-Jogi Game Reserve just a few years ago.
However, scientists say the new images, which show the leopard’s patterned fur, prove that the subject was definitely a black leopard – rather than a black panther, which is a more general term that can include any big black cat, such as a jaguar.
Experts believe the new discovery suggests that there may be more black leopards lurking in the Kenyan shadows than previously estimated.
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