Rare Animal Sighted in Kenya for the First Time in 100 Years

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A wildlife photographer from the United Kingdom has captured images of a black leopard in Kenya.

Image copyright Burrard-Lucas Photography Image caption Dad? Steve confirmed that it was true and he had seen several black leopards over the years.

He added: "As far as I know, this is the first series of high-quality camera trap images of a wild black leopard ever captured in Africa".

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. (Supplied) Black panthers are an umbrella term that refers to any big cat with a black coat.

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"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".

These black-coated leopards were sighted by Burrard-Lucas in Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya, where he been camping since January.

The appearance of the animal - which has barely visible spots - is the result of melanism, Mail Online reports.

Also known as a "melanistic" leopards, these sleek felines have a mutation marked by a prevalence of dark pigment over light.

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They weren't sure whether the tracks they were following were those of the black leopard or a regular spotted one. Pilfold is part of a team from the San Diego Zoo working with local partners, including the Kenya Wildlife Service, to monitor leopard populations in the area and help preserve the species.

He says that he used a plethora of camera traps each consisting of a Camtraptions wireless motion sensor, a high-quality DSLR camera and two or three flashes. "So I've left the cameras for a few days and now I'm heading back to see if I've got anything".

According to the National Geographic the black leopard captured by Mr Pilfold in 2018 has melanism and the last such sighting was in 1909.

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.

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Nicholas Pilfold PhD, a lead researcher for a leopard conservation program in Laikipia County, Keyna, said: "We had always heard about black leopard living in this region, but the stories were absent of high quality footage that could confirm their existence". An April 2017 study found an overall incidence of melanism of 11 percent among leopards, but noted that different habitats showed different frequencies of melanism.