Elusive ‘black panther’ alive and well in Kenya, study shows

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The sighting was a first in 100 years, according to researchers.

A team of biologists have released photos of a rare melanistic leopard, also called the Black Panther, which was shot in the bushlands of Loisaba Conservancy in Laikipia County in Kenya. Burrard-Lucas said in the case of this project, his biggest challenge was knowing where to put the camera traps.

"I had a quick look at the last trap, not expecting to find much", he wrote on his blog.

Ever since Burrard-Lucas was a child, he's been fascinated by the lore and stories of the elusive black panther, and only dreamed of ever seeing one.

Pilford first encountered a back leopard after spending three days searching the Kabini Forest in India. With help from a local tour guide and other leopard researchers in Laikipia County, who followed tracks believed to belong to the leopard, Burrard-Lucas eventually settled on what he considered the ideal spot to set up Camtraptions Camera Traps.

Pilford has been delighted at the fact his published research coincides with the recent boom of black panthers in pop culture, which includes Marvel's 2018 film "Black Panther".

The elusive African black leopard is alive and well and living in Kenya - and there are new pictures to prove it.

Pilford said he's "aware of a few different photos taken over the years, but a lot of them are taken from a distance and could not be used as confirmatory evidence".

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A black leopard lounging at the The Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve.

A black leopard is defined as the melanistic colour variant of any big cat species.

The images - taken at the Laikipia Wilderness Camp - were actually the first in almost a century to document the rosette patterned-speckled coat of an African leopard, confirming the existence on the continent of the genetic mutation that makes black leopards, well, black. And on the fourth night, he was able to snap high-quality photos of a black leopard - a sight he couldn't believe that he caught with his cameras.

He explained that according to some comic lore, the fictional country of Wakanda is typically located in East Africa, which is very close to where this real black cat was found.

The leopard is black as a result of a gene that causes a surplus pigment in the skin or hair of the animal - known as melanism - so that it appears black.

"Black panthers are iconic creatures and yet very few images of wild black panthers exist", said Burrard-Lucas in an email to Hyperallergic.

The black leopard was spotted near Loisaba Conservancy by biologist Nick Pilfold.