Watch rare footage of a black panther spotted in Kenya

Watch rare footage of a black panther spotted in Kenya

Watch rare footage of a black panther spotted in Kenya

Researchers need to see the melanism, the genetic mutation, but the coats appear black to the naked eye (and the camera lens) during the day.

A British wildlife photographer has captured images of an extremely rare African black leopard.

"When I heard that a black leopard had been seen up at Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya my ears pricked up and I contacted the owners Steve and Annabelle Carey to find out more", he said.

"I do however believe that they are the first high-quality camera trap photographs", Will Burrard-Lucas, wildlife photographer and founder of Camtraptions, wrote in a blog update.

"I don't think it sank in immediately what I'd managed to achieve, it was such an unusual subject".

A team of biologists shot rare footage of the sleek big cat after spending months watching and waiting, said Nick Pilfold, a global conservation scientist at the San Diego Zoo.

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"Collectively, these are the first confirmed images in almost 100 years of a black leopard in Africa", said Nicholas Pilfold of the San Diego team, also lead researcher for a leopard conservation program in Laikipia County.

There are nine leopard subspecies located from Africa all the way to eastern Russian Federation. Reports of black leopards across Africa are strikingly uncommon.

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

His team recently published a paper in the African Journal of Ecology on their findings and he coordinated press releases to be timed with Burrard-Lucas' rare photos. "[Scientists] believe these images are the first to show the characteristic rosette pattern on the leopard's coat, thus providing the first scientifically accepted proof in 100 years of a melanistic leopard in Africa". "All I can see is eyes", he says, smiling, "but this is a black leopard emerging from the darkness".

However, the Daily Nation, a Kenyan newspaper, challenged that claim on Wednesday, saying one of its photographers had succeeded in photographing a black leopard in 2013. They're more commonly spotted in the jungles of Asia. 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.

"In addition to confirming black panthers in Africa, our observations are unique because Laikipia is a semi-arid shrubland, and previous melanistic observations come from more shaded habitats in tropical forests, which is in keeping with the understanding that melanism is an adaptation to camouflage against dark backgrounds".

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