Black Panther spotted in Kenya for the first time in 100 years

Melanistic leopard

Melanistic leopard

The creature - which nearly has a mythical status - was captured by British wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas, 35, while it was prowling around the plains of Kenya in the dead of night with a full moon looming above.

The black leopard was spotted near Loisaba Conservancy in Laikipia by biologist Nick Pilfold.

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 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".

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.

"I left the cameras for several more nights".

The black leopard Will captured is a male and based on its size, thought to be around two years old.

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

"I had a quick look at the last trap, not expecting to find much", he said.

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"I couldn't believe it and it took a few days before it sank in that I had achieved my dream".

"Almost everyone has a story about seeing one, it's such a mythical thing", says Mr Pilfold, of San Diego Zoo Global's Institute for Conservation Research.

Nine subspecies of leopard range across Africa and Asia, but melanistic versions of the cats are not evenly distributed between them.

This is the second black panther to be spotted in Laikipia after a similar discovery was recorded by then Nation photojournalist Phoebe Okall in 2013 at Ol Jogi Conservancy.

A wildlife photographer captured an image of a black leopard late at night, something that's fairly uncommon among wildlife enthusiasts.

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

The high quality system made it possible to see the majestic black leopard, a big cat which is rarely caught on camera.

The black leopard could also be referred to as a black panther, as this is an umbrella term that simply refers to any big cat that has a black coat.

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.

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