Environment

The elusive black panther is spotted in Kenya

Images of a rare African black leopard – known as panthers – have been captured in Kenya, the first verifiable record of the animal for nearly 100 years, according to researchers. Michelle Hennessy reports.

LAIKIPIA WILDERNESS CAMP, KENYA (WILL BURRARD-LUCAS / CAMTRAPTIONS LTD / SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL) – This is the first confirmed sighting of a rare African black panther in nearly a century.

That’s according to researchers from the San Diego Zoo who were studying ordinary leopards in Kenya’s Laikipia County, when the elusive cat made its debut.

Black leopards – which are also called black panthers – carry a gene mutation that makes their coats black.

But the infrared cameras used by the team, helps show off their spots.

British wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas also captured the creature nearby.

WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHER, WILL BURRARD-LUCAS, PARTLY OVERLAID BY PHOTOGRAPHS,

“We have something. All I can see is eyes but this is a black leopard emerging from the darkness. Look at this. I can’t believe it really. I think when I started this project I didn’t actually think I was going to be able to achieve a shot of a black leopard in Africa but that is exactly what is here on the back of my camera. Just the most stunning, spectacular creature I think I’ve ever photographed.”

Nicholas Pilford from the San Diego team explains why they’re such a special find:

SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL SCIENTIST NICHOLAS PILFOLD,

“We don’t see black leopards anywhere further south of Kenya. We’ve only seen them here in Kenya, and we’ve had reports in Ethiopia. So this suggests that there’s a lot of conservation value here in protecting what may be a very special sub species of leopard.”

San Diego Zoo says scientists had assumed their black coat could be explained by evolution – a way to camouflage them from predators.

But this new discovery in an open, arid habitat could change what scientists know about the panther, and offer clues about the secretive animal.


Associated Links

  • CAMTRAPTIONS LTD
  • SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL
  • Felids
  • Predators
  • Leopard
  • Panthera
  • Kenya

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