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 is likely that black leopards have been living in Kenya all along, it is only that high-quality imagery to confirm it has been missing until now", said Pilfold.
The San Diego Zoo in January confirmed that the photos are the first scientific documentation of the animal.
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. It's unclear whether that image was publicized at the time.
With the help of a guide, he set up Camtraptions camera traps along a path where they found fresh footprints - though it was unclear if the tracks belonged to a black leopard or a regular spotted one. The photos show the majestic animal walking through darkness, its eyes glowing as it stares directly at the viewer.
Global conservation scientist Nick Pilfold said the last time a black leopard was captured on film was in 1909.
He let the cameras out for several more nights.
Contrary to popular belief, black panthers are not a species, the animals commonly referred to by these name are simply melanistic leopards and jaguars that have a mutation responsible for their dark or black coat.More news: See Klobuchar launch 2020 presidential bid in most Minnesota way imaginable
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It causes the animal's coat to appear completely black in daytime, though their distinctive pattern is visible in infrared footage. "I never expected to get shots of one", Burrard-Lucas said, explaining that leopards are very shy and secretive. "For me, no animal is shrouded in more mystery, no animal more elusive, and no animal more attractive", Lucas wrote. "Just the most stunning, spectacular creature I think I've ever photographed!" They were left on 24 hours a day in most places but were only turned on at night in public places, according to the African Journal of Ecology.
That superhero character was from the fictional country of Wakanda.
"She told us as much as she knew about the leopard's habits and territory", said Burrard-Lucas.
Pilford told AFP that after receiving numerous reports of sightings of the leopard, his team set up eight camera traps in February 2018, and within three months had snapped a sub-adult female. These were later revealed to be that of black leopard.
"Collectively, these are the first confirmed images in almost 100 years of a black leopard in Africa", said Nicholas Pilfold of the San Diego team, also lead researcher for a leopard conservation program in Laikipia County.
"Despite many challenges in the sector, Kenya's wildlife continues to awe and inspire the world".