British wildlife photographer, Will Burrard-Lucas, on Monday, captured a series of high-quality images of a wild melanistic leopard (loosely referred to as a black panther) close to the Laikipia Wilderness Camp, Kenya.
The extremely rare sighting and photographic capture of a black leopard is believed to be the first of its kind on African soil in nearly 100 years.
The experienced photographer got his lucky break at the Laikipia Wilderness Camp, a local wildlife haven run by Steve Carey.
“The biggest challenge in this project was knowing where to put my camera traps. When I heard that a black leopard had been seen up at Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya my ears pricked up and I contacted the owners Steve and Annabelle Carey to find out more,” Will revealed in his blog post.
It was Steve who tipped off Will on the whereabouts of the elusive melanistic leopard, after picking up on fresh tracks allegedly belonging to the black panther, that had been spotted close to the wilderness camp.
The veteran wildlife photographer was then able to set up his Camtraptions camera traps at the most ideal spots and waited it out.
It took about four days before he finally got his big break and captured a wild black leopard, an accomplishment that hasn’t been equaled in possibly a century.
Speaking to Kenyans.co.ke, Annabelle Carey was audibly excited when asked about the rare sighting of the melanistic leopard close to their camp. She also affirmed Will’s short yet record-setting stay at their camp.
The findings from the Camtraptions remote cameras were recently published in the Journal of African Ecology.
Melanistic leopards are iconic creatures with a movie themed around the mythical animal interestingly based within the fictitious land of ‘Wakanda’ in East Africa, the same region in which the actual black panther was spotted and captured on camera.
A Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) official, Paul Gathitu divulged to Kenyans.co.ke that KWS officers had also come across melanistic leopards in the Aberdare forest during a fencing exercise. However, he was yet to receive photographic evidence of the same.
Contrary to popular belief, black panthers are not a species, the animals commonly referred to by this name are simply melanistic leopards and jaguars that have a mutation responsible for their dark or black coat.
See the images captured at Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya:
Other images captured by Will at the camp;