The Extremely Rare Black Leopard Confirmed In Africa For First Time In 100 Years
The creature – which almost has a mythical status – was captured by British wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas, 35, while it was prowling around the plains of Kenya in the dead of night with a full moon looming above. This is the first time that one has been caught on camera ‘properly’ in Africa for 100 years.
Its wide eyes can be seen looking eagerly for prey, while leopard-like spots can vaguely be seen on its sooty coat, which is the result of melanism. This genetic variation, the opposite of albinism, results in an excess of dark pigmentation.
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 – Burrard-Lucas decided to investigate further and set up an expedition this January.
He used specialist equipment including wireless motion sensors, high-quality DSLR cameras and two to three flashes.
“As far as I know none of these leopards has never been photographed properly in Africa before… So I’ve left the cameras for a few days and now I’m heading back to see if I’ve got anything,” Burrard-Lucas said in a video documenting his photography expedition.
Published in January in the African Journal of Ecology, these photos represent the first scientific documentation of such a creature in Africa in nearly a century.
As recently as 2017, only a single sighting had been confirmed—a 1909 photograph taken in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and stored in the collections of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Their range across much of the continent has shrunk by at least 66 percent due to habitat loss and prey decline.