Rare Footage Of Elusive Black Panther Captured

Posted on April 8th 2019

jaguar conservation

Most of Kenya’s leopards are characterised by their iconic light coat and dark spots, however there are a tiny fraction of the population that have a rare genetic mutation known as melanism which makes them appear all black in sunlight. San Diego Zoo Global says leopards with melanism have spots that show up at night under infrared imagery. The black leopard has achieved mythical status with lots of stories in central Kenya’s Laikipia County, the location of the most recent sightings.

First sighting in over a century

Early last year researchers from San Diego Zoo Global managed to capture footage of a black leopard published the results of their results in January believed to be the first such sighting since 1909. Separately Will Burrard-Lucas, a wildlife photographer also managed to capture high-quality images of a black leopard in Laikipia County earlier in the year. Scientists say that capturing images of any leopard is always a challenge because of their elusive nature. Researchers say they were thrilled and surprised when they managed to capture images of a rare black leopard.

Camera traps were key

The team from San Diego Zoo Global set up camera traps that managed to capture images of the rare cat prowling whilst Mr Burrard-Lucas travelled to Kenya to try and photograph a black leopard after hearing reports of sightings.  In a blog post he said he had never seen a high-quality image of a black leopard in the wild. He also used a set of camera traps made by Camtraptions complete with high quality cameras and motion detectors. The photographer says as he scrolled through the images, he couldn’t believe what he saw, a pair of eyes surrounded by inky darkness and it took a few days for it to sink in that he had finally achieved his dream.

No not a Marvel character

It is believed that though the photographer and research team were working separately, the images and footage they captured are of the same leopard. Not surprisingly comparisons to the Marvel Comics character depicted in the blockbuster movie were instant. However, the reality is a little more prosaic, black panther is actually a term for any big cat that is black, which includes South American black jaguars as well. Wakanda the fictional country where the superhero is from in the Marvel universe is ironically in East Africa not far away from where the researchers and the photographer were working.

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