Extremely Rare Black Leopard Immortalized in Stunning Photos

Image at Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya capured using Camtraptions Camera Trap by Will Burrard-Lucas

"The opposite of albinism, melanism is the result of a gene that causes a surplus of pigment in the skin or hair of an animal so that it appears black".

Wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas managed it - and there are even claims this is the first time anyone has captured a melanistic leopard on camera in Africa in 100 years.

The images - taken at the Laikipia Wilderness Camp - were actually the first in almost a century to document the rosette patterned-speckled coat of an African leopard, confirming the existence on the continent of the genetic mutation that makes black leopards, well, black. He used a series of motion sensors, which wirelessly triggered high quality digital cameras and two or three flashes.

Photographer Will Burrard-Lucas told CTVNews.ca over the phone, "it's not an exaggeration to say this was a dream come true ... they're pretty much the number one thing I've wanted to photograph". "As I scrolled through the images on the back of the camera, I paused and peered at the photograph below in incomprehension".

"I couldn't believe it and it took a few days before it sank in that I had achieved my dream", he said. The creature is rarely photographed clearly in eastern Africa.

"Black panthers are iconic creatures and yet very few images of wild black panthers exist", said Burrard-Lucas in an email to Hyperallergic.

Researchers didn't originally set up the cameras to find a black panther.

"Regionally we've heard reports of black leopards living here in Kenya, but high-quality footage or imagery to support these observations has always been missing", Nicholas Pilfold, San Diego Zoo Global scientist, said in a news release.

Image copyright Burrard-Lucas Photography Image caption Dad? That's when he chose to head to Africa himself, and set up several covert remote cameras by Camtraptions Camera Trap overnight at the Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya, near where the San Diego Zoo researchers had confirmed the evasive predator's existence. "So black jaguars in South America, for example, are a type of black panther".

According to Nat Geo, the last recorded sighting of a wild black panther in Africa was in Ethiopia in 1909.

Kenyan conservationist Paula Kahumbu said there have been many unconfirmed sightings of black leopards, but this is the first time one has been proven.

A black panther is basically a melanistic big cat.

A black leopard raised in captivity at the The Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve in Johannesburg.

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