British wildlife photographer captures African black leopard in rare sighting

Minnie Murray
February 14, 2019

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.

"I have never seen a high-quality image of a wild black leopard come out of Africa", he said in a blog post, but then he heard about a sighting at Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya.

The headline screams: "Black leopard spotted in Africa for first time in 100 years".

The animal has a sooty black coat as a result of melanism, which is the opposite of albinism and is extremely rare. He used a series of motion sensors, which wirelessly triggered high quality digital cameras and two or three flashes. All I can see is eyes but this is a black leopard emerging from the darkness. He took several photos at night with the hope of capturing photos of a leopard.

If you were a rare animal, which would you be? He saw no black leopards until checking his last camera.

National Geographic adds that there are nine leopard subspecies ranging from Africa all the way to eastern Russian Federation.

Burrard-Lucas and Pilfold's team were working separately, but they believe they captured images of the same leopard.

The images now accompany a paper detailing the confirmed black leopard recently published in the African Journal of Ecology.


"The next day I eagerly checked the cameras but had no images of leopards", Burrard-Lucas wrote on his website.

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

"Melanism occurs in about 11 percent of leopards globally".

It's thought that melanism provides additional camouflage in those habitats, giving the predators an advantage when it comes to hunting, says Vincent Naude, leopard genetic forensics project coordinator for the nonprofit Panthera, who was not involved with this research. Black leopards are actually a type of black panther - made famous by the Marvel Comics character of that name.

When he returned and scrolled through the images, he spotted a rabbit, a hyena, and finally, the glowing eyes in the darkness of the black leopard slinking through the grass at night.

Melanism is the opposite of albinism and although leopards affected by the genetic condition have been reported in and around Kenya for decades, a scientific confirmation of their existence has been almost impossible to confirm.

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

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