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