Elusive black leopard spotted in Kenya for first time in 100 years

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Pilford was then told of a black leopard at the Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya - an area not known for the creature.

The extremely rare sighting as well as capturing of a black leopard is believed to be the first of its kind on African soil for the first time in over 100 years.

The cat is so rare it has taken on an nearly mythical status, which is reflected by the fact the creature hadn't been photographed in Africa in nearly 100 years.

The leopard - which is also referred to as a black panther - derives its dark coat from melanism, the opposite of albinism.

After deploying camera traps, which take photos when they detect motion in front of them, in the Loisaba Conservancy in central Kenya in early 2018, Pilfold soon had his proof: a juvenile female leopard, with black skin and black spots, wandering through the brush.

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. "So I've left the cameras for a few days and now I'm heading back to see if I've got anything".

They were captured by Will Burrad-Lucas, 35, from Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, at Kenya's Laikipia Wilderness Camp last month.

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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".

"This is what Will's photos and the videos on our remote cameras now prove, and are exceptionally rare in their detail and insight".

That just makes the fact that Kenya, which seems to be the only place black panthers are found in Africa, is also near the location of the fictional country of Wakanda, home of the Marvel universe's Black Panther superhero, all the more striking. (Supplied) Black panthers are an umbrella term that refers to any big cat with a black coat.

Black leopards are usually associated with dense forests where their dark colouration is thought to help them hide in the shadows.

Because of this disparity and their incredible rarity, scientists haven't had the ability to study the cause of melanism in African leopards, and aren't even sure it's caused by the same mechanism as that in South Asian leopards, which are much more commonly melanistic, National Geographic noted. "For me, no animal is shrouded in more mystery, no animal more elusive, and no animal more handsome", Lucas wrote.

'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'.

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