Black panther: Rare animal caught on camera in Kenya

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For the first time in a century, a rare melanistic leopard, commonly called a "black panther", has been photographed in Kenya.

Burrard-Lucas said he shot the images at Laikipia Wilderness Camp using a Camtraptions Camera, which focuses on wildlife photography and footage.

'Collectively these are the first confirmed images in almost 100 years of black leopard in Africa, and this region is the only known spot in all of Africa to have black leopard'.

Its wide eyes can be seen looking eagerly for prey, while leopard-like spots can vaguely be seen on its sooty coat, which is the result of melanism.

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.

The images now accompany a paper detailing the confirmed black leopard recently published in the African Journal of Ecology.

The lone female photographed by Mr Burrard-Lucas is probably the offspring of non-melanistic parents.

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"Over the days that followed I moved the camera traps around as I gained a deeper understanding of the leopard's movements".

(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", Burrad-Luca told The Guardian. He said the black leopards are famous for killing livestock in the region, where they refer to them as "calf killers". "The only place where we have black leopards is where this place in the Marvel Universe appears to exist".

Nicholas Pilfold PhD, a biologist with San Diego Zoo Global who is now researching leopards at Laikipia's Loisaba Conservancy and helped Burrard-Lucas with his photography project, confirmed that the recent on-camera sighting was extremely rare. "If you saw them, you didn't take it", Pilford told the magazine.

And while 11 percent of leopards alive today are thought to be melanistic, says Pilfold, most are found in Southeast Asia, where tropical forests offer an abundance of shade.

He said he left his cameras outside for several nights.

"Since childhood, I have been fascinated by stories of black panthers". His team of biologists had placed remote cameras to track the leopard population near a conservancy area in Laikipia County a year ago when they heard reports of a possible black leopard sighting.

There are nine leopard subspecies that are native to more than 25 African countries, according to the African Wildlife Federation (AFW).

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