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

Posted February 14, 2019

"All I can see is eyes", he says, smiling, "but this is a black leopard emerging from the darkness".

Whispers of sightings of the elusive black leopard have long swirled around central Kenya, and scientists have now confirmed its presence there with a series of rare images taken by camera traps.

Photographer Will Burrard-Lucas couldn't have been luckier when a big black cat crossed his path while snapping wildlife in Kenya last month. The sighting was a first in 100 years, according to researchers. "That was enough for me and I chose to invest some time in checking it out", he writes.

After meeting with locals who had seen the animals, and following leopard tracks, Burrard-Lucas set up a Camtraptions camera trap that included wireless motion sensors, in the hope of photographing the animals at night. Once the camera traps are all set up, they can be left alone for days or weeks at a time.

Pilford said he's "aware of a few different photos taken over the years, but a lot of them are taken from a distance and could not be used as confirmatory evidence". I had a quick look at the last trap, not expecting to find much.

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Will Burrard-Lucas, who shot the images of the black leopard, described his longtime dream to photograph the big cat.

This is the first time that one has been caught on camera "properly" in Africa for 100 years.

"The opposite of albinism, melanism is the result of a gene that causes a surplus of pigment in the skin or hair of an animal so that it appears black".

Black leopards are well documented in South East Asia, but little is known about their presence in Africa.

However, he went on to note that he's "not claiming that these are the first photos of a black leopard taken in Africa".

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

"Melanism occurs in about 11 percent of leopards globally". He complimented Burrard-Lucas's photos because "having images of that quality really hits home".

A black leopard is defined as the melanistic colour variant of any big cat species.

The irony of the scientific paper coming out not long after the 2018 box office success of Marvel's Black Panther, based in the fictional African nation of Wakanda - which is said to border Kenya - was not lost on Kenya's twittersphere. Even if it means we won't get a chance to see them again, their safety and place in our world is more important than interfering with their happiness and security.

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