An 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.
A black leopard whose images were taken recently by British wildlife photographer Will Burrad-Lucas, was the first sighting in 100 years.
Nick Pilfold, a San Diego Zoo global scientist, said they captured the footage by sheer luck.
The team of biologists had placed remote wildlife cameras to track the leopard population near Loisaba Conservancy in Laikipia County last year when they heard unconfirmed reports of a possible black leopard sighting.
“We intensified our camera placement in the area the reports were being made,” he said Tuesday night. “Within a few months, we were rewarded with multiple observations on our cameras.”
It’s the opposite of albinism, and although the leopard’s coat appears black during the day, its rosette patterns are visible in nighttime infrared imagery.
While there have been reports of sightings of black leopards, also known as black panthers, the last confirmed observation was in Ethiopia more than a century ago, he said.
“Melanism occurs in about 11% of leopards globally, but most of these leopards live in South East Asia,” he said.
“Black leopards in Africa are extremely rare, and prior to the observations in our published paper, the last confirmed observation was 1909 in Ethiopia.”
Black leopards may have been living in Kenya all along, but there’s been no footage to confirm the observations until now, Pilfold said.