Photo of rare black leopard captured for first time in 100 years

Melanistic 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.

A team of biologists have released photos of a rare melanistic leopard, also called the Black Panther, which was shot in the bushlands of Loisaba Conservancy in Laikipia County in Kenya.

The leopard, spotted in Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya, has often been seen but getting pictures of it has proven to be very hard.

The creature - of nearly mythical status - was captured on film by Kenya-based biologist Nick Pilfold using specialist equipment including wireless motion sensors and high-quality DSLR cameras.

To underscore his point, Burrard-Lucas added an addendum to the blog post that started it all: "For clarification, I am not claiming that these are the first photos of a black leopard taken in Africa. So I've left the cameras for a few days and now I'm heading back to see if I've got anything".

The images were captured by researchers from the San Diego Zoo who have been studying leopards in the Loisaba wildlife conservancy, as well as an independent photographer working in the region at the same time.

The Brit said he couldn't believe it when he returned to one of the traps one day and saw a black leopard staring back at the camera lens.

They are believed to be the first images of the animal in more than 100 years.

Melanism is the opposite of albinism, and is classified as an extremely rare condition. In Asia and Africa, black panthers are leopards, Panthera pardus.

"It's really neat. The black panthers we have are very close to the fictional ones of Wakanda", he said.

While there have been reported sightings, black leopards are still considered rare in the continent, Pilfold said.

Image copyright Burrard-Lucas Photography Image caption Dad?

According to Pilford, only 11 percent of leopards across the globe are black.

But their existence is quite rare.

No one but the black leopards know if there are more sightings like this in store for us.

According to the team's paper published in the African Journal of Ecology, there have been sightings of the black leopard, but the last confirmed photographic evidence was taken in Ethiopia in 1909. The 2013 image in particular, he said, "is a captive black leopard that was brought from America as a kitten to Kenya, not wild".

He's been fascinated with black panthers since he was a child, and in a blog post he said, "no animal is shrouded in more mystery, no animal more elusive and no animal more handsome".

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