Rare black leopard caught on camera

Hugh Fox
February 15, 2019

Black Panther the superhero has earned plenty of headlines lately, but it was his real-life counterpart making news this week.

A story that claimed a rare black leopard had not been seen in Africa for 100 years has left Kenyans up in arms.

Kenyan photographer and activist Boniface Mwangi noted on Twitter, "It's important we say this, @willbl (Lucas) took incredible, never seen before images of a #blackpanther. My images are high-definition (and I am) 100 percent sure the leopard in my images is a male". Will Burrard-Lucas captioned the pic. "So black jaguars in South America, for example, are a type of black panther".

"For me, no animal is shrouded in more mystery, no animal more elusive, and no animal more lovely", he posted on his blog. In September, he was lucky enough to spot one from a distance in India's Kabini Forest, but seeing one in Africa eluded him until his recent Kenya trip, where he set up the camera traps.

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.

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Burrard-Lucas used a series of Camtraptions camera traps, a system he devised, that included a wireless motion sensor and a high-quality camera.

"I'm able to set up a kind of studio-like lighting and just leave my cameras set up for weeks or months". He posted behind-the-scenes video to show how it works.

Very few images of these iconic, secretive creatures exist. Kenyans living in areas with wildlife population have spotted black leopards many times (we coexist with wildlife). "I couldn't believe it and it took a few days before it sank in that I had achieved my dream", Burrard-Lucas wrote on his blog.

"It's exciting to see black leopards on our cameras - and more research into their melanism is needed, so we can understand why they occur here". It didn't take long for the cameras to capture footage of the extremely rare melanistic panther. But on subsequent nights, that animal disappeared, and a spotted leopard was seen instead.

A feature by National Geographic has reported this is the first animal of its kind to be spotted in nearly a century.

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Separately, wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas captured high-quality photos of a black leopard there last month. But on the night of the full moon, it reappeared for a stunning shot.

"As recently as 2017, only a single sighting had been confirmed - a photograph taken in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and stored in the collections of the National Meseum of Natural History in Washington D.C", the report says in part.

"All they're seeing is a headline and a tweet", he said.

Some anxious that sharing the images would lead to the animal becoming a hunter's target. However, the latest photos represent the first recorded scientific evidence. "They have a valid point, but my blog post is clear". "Tourism brings valuable revenue to these places and is often a critical source of funding for conservation efforts".

"A black panther is basically a melanistic big cat". "I can still scarcely believe that this project-which started out as a speculative [reconnaissance] trip-has paid such spectacular dividends".

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