A rare black African leopard

Melanistic leopard

Melanistic leopard

While he was capturing stills, researchers from San Diego Zoo Global studying leopards in the area set up remote video cameras nearby, publishing their findings in the African Journal of Ecology.

The black leopard, which gets it's distintive colour from the creation of excess melanin, is extremely rare, so photographer Will Burrard-Lucas really hit the jackpot.

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

The San Diego Zoo in January confirmed that the photos are the first scientific documentation of the animal.

Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper said a similar photograph was taken in 2013 by Phoebe Okall, but Pilfold and his team say otherwise. It's unclear whether that image was publicized at the time.

Pilford has been delighted at the fact his published research coincides with the recent boom of black panthers in pop culture, which includes Marvel's 2018 film "Black Panther". The photos show the majestic animal walking through darkness, its eyes glowing as it stares directly at the viewer.

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The pictures are the first of a black leopard in Africa in nearly 100 years.

"I left the cameras for several more nights". "Within a few months, we were rewarded with multiple observations on our cameras".

Speaking to Kenyans.co.ke, Annabelle Carey was audibly excited when asked about the rare sighting of the melanistic leopard close to their camp.

Melanism is a genetic mutation like albinism, except it leads to a surplus in pigment that turns the fur or skin of an animal black. Four of these observations were at night with infrared imaging, which confirmed the animal's rosette patterning.

While 11 per cent of leopards alive today are thought to be melanistic, most are found in Southeast Asia where tropical forests offer an abundance of shade. "I couldn't believe it and it took a few days before it sank in that I had achieved my dream", Burrard-Lucas reportedly wrote on his blog.

Summing up the black leopard in three words, Burrard-Lucas said: 'They are truly stunning, handsome and elusive'.

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

The black leopard could also be referred to as a black panther, as this is an umbrella term that simply refers to any big cat that has a black coat.

It was gathered that Kenya-based biologist, Dr Nicholas Pilfold, got a wave of news of the rare species lurking around Loisaba Conservancy and wasted no time planting cameras around the location with the help of his team.

Burrard-Lucas said it had been his dream to photograph the black leopard since childhood. "As a local, people have always been talking about the black leopard". In early 2018, they were able to spot the mysterious black leopard, estimated to be a 2-year-old female, at least five times - February 16, Feb. 28, March 11, March 15 and April 14 - five different locations.

"Despite many challenges in the sector, Kenya's wildlife continues to awe and inspire the world".

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