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A British photographer in Kenya has managed to capture a wild African black leopard in a series of striking photographs for the first time in over 100 years.

Most recorded sightings of black leopards or melanistic leopards are from the forests of Asia, but they are extremely rare in Africa.

The leopard - which is also referred to as a black panther - derives its dark coat from melanism, the opposite of albinism.

He says that he used a plethora of camera traps each consisting of a Camtraptions wireless motion sensor, a high-quality DSLR camera and two or three flashes.

After finding tracks, Pilford setup a Camtraptions Camera Trap for several nights until he captured a pair of eyes surrounded by inky darkness.

"These are the first high-quality camera trap photos of a black leopard anywhere". The cameras were placed near animal trails, and water sources such as pools and natural springs. These were later revealed to be that of black leopard.

There are nine leopard subspecies located from Africa all the way to eastern Russian Federation.

He complimented Burrard-Lucas's photos because "having images of that quality really hits home". 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.

A black leopard raised in captivity at the The Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve in Johannesburg.

"Over the days that followed I moved the camera traps around as I gained a deeper understanding of the leopard's movements".

Burrard-Lucas quickly went to Laikipia to meet Steve Carey, who then introduced him to Luisa Ancilotto, who lived close to the camp and had seen a black leopard recently.

'I couldn't believe it and it took a few days before it sank in that I had achieved my dream'.

It's thought that melanism provides additional camouflage in those habitats, giving the predators an advantage when it comes to hunting, says Vincent Naude, leopard genetic forensics project coordinator for the nonprofit Panthera, who was not involved with this research. How National Geographic reports that scientific confirmation of their existence remains rare.

Pilfold also pointed out the the location of the sighting is near where Marvel comics located its fictional country Wakanda, home of the character Black Panther.

Kenyan conservationist Paula Kahumbu said there have been many unconfirmed sightings of black leopards, but this is the first time one has been proven.


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