Black leopard captured for first time in 100 years by Brit photographer

Image at Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya capured using Camtraptions Camera Trap by Will Burrard-Lucas

And biologists have rare footage of the sleek black leopard walking majestically in Kenya - the first time the animal has been photographed in Africa since 1909.

This doesn't mean the big cat is totally black though, with Mr Burrard-Lucas' pictures revealing typical markings hidden within the leopard's glossy, sooty coat.

After learning that several had been spotted in the Laikipia area of Kenya - the only area thought to have black leopards in all of Africa - he made a decision to investigate further and set up an expedition this January.

He added: "As far as I know, this is the first series of high-quality camera trap images of a wild black leopard ever captured in Africa".

Slinking through the darkness, these stunning images show an ultra-rare black leopard in action.

Nicholas Pilfold PhD, a biologist with San Diego Zoo Global who is now researching leopards at Laikipia's Loisaba Conservancy and helped Burrard-Lucas with his photography project, confirmed that the recent on-camera sighting was extremely rare. 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.

This is the first time that one has been caught on camera "properly" in Africa for 100 years.

Will Burrad-Lucas, 35, from Buckinghamshire, snapped the melanistic African leopard - which is around two-years-old - at Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya last month.

They weren't sure whether the tracks they were following were those of the black leopard or a regular spotted one.

The leopard's appearance is attributed to melanism - the development of the dark-coloured pigment melanin in the skin or hair of animals.

In a video documenting his photography expedition, Burrard-Lucas filmed himself going to check the camera. Pilfold is part of a team from the San Diego Zoo working with local partners, including the Kenya Wildlife Service, to monitor leopard populations in the area and help preserve the species.

"I left the cameras for several more nights".

"Scrub hare, mongoose... we have something".

"I can't believe it really".

Published in the African Journal of Ecology, the photos represent the first scientific documentation of such a creature in Africa in almost a century.

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

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