Friday, 22 February, 2019

Rare black leopard finally caught on camera

By Eddy Mwanza on 12 February 2019- 5:04 pm                              
  incredible
Laikipia Wilderness Camp Laikipia- Kenya Twitter By Eddy Mwanza on 12 February 2019- 5:04 pm incredible Laikipia Wilderness Camp Laikipia- Kenya Twitter
Leonard Rios | 14 February, 2019, 08:11

British publication The Guardian reports that Nicholas Pilfold, from the institute for conservation research at the San Diego Zoo, has written an article in the African Journal of Ecology about the new photographic evidence captured by Burrard-Lucas.

"Melanistic leopards have been reported in and around Kenya for decades, but scientific confirmation of their existence remains quite rare", states National Geographic on their website.

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. While there have been reports of black panther sightings in Africa, the last confirmed one was in Ethiopia in 1909.

Image copyright Burrard-Lucas Photography Image caption Dad?

Its wide eyes can be seen looking eagerly for prey, while leopard-like spots can vaguely be seen on its sooty coat, which is the result of melanism.

Although the leopard's coat appears black during the day, its rosette patterns are visible in nighttime infrared imagery.

"Almost everyone has a story about seeing one, it's such a mythical thing", Pilfold said. "It really became this myth that built up over time". "For many years, they remained the stuff of dreams and of farfetched stories told around the campfire at night".

"This is not just because leopards are extremely secretive and hard to see, but also because only a tiny percentage of leopards are black".

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The experienced photographer got his lucky break at the Laikipia Wilderness Camp, a local wildlife haven run by Steve Carey.

"Usually on these camera trap photos with the flash you see the animal very clearly".

On another night, one of his cameras managed to capture the leopard in the light of a full moon, prowling through the darkness.

The photographer said he used a series of high-quality camera traps in order to capture the animal.

"Over the days that followed I moved the camera traps around as I gained a deeper understanding of the leopard's movements. I do however believe that they are the first high-quality camera trap photographs".

The images of the black leopard - sometimes referred to as a black panther in Kenya - were released to the public on Monday.

Yet other observers, such as the carnivore ecologist Mordecai Ogada, argued this was another example of "conservation apartheid", writing that, seemingly, "nothing exists in Africa until a white person observes it".

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