Black Leopard Sighted After More Than A Century
Biologists shot rare footage of a black leopard walking majestically in Kenya – the first time the animal has been photographed in Africa since 1909, said Nick Pilfold, a global conservation scientist at the San Diego Zoo.
Pilfold said they filmed the footage after months of watching and waiting. His team of biologists had placed remote cameras to track the leopard population near a conservancy area in Laikipia County last year when they heard reports of a possible black leopard sighting,
"We intensified our camera placement in the area the reports were being made," he said Tuesday night. "Within a few months, we were rewarded with multiple observations on our cameras."
The female leopard's coat color is pitch black as a result of melanism, a gene mutation that results in an over-production of pigment, Pilfold said. It's the opposite of albinism – and although the leopard's coat appears black during the day, its rosette patterns are visible in night-time infrared imagery.
While there have been reports of sightings of black leopards – also known as black panthers – the last confirmed observation with photographic evidence was in Ethiopia more than a century ago, he said.
"It is likely that black leopards have been living in Kenya all along, it is only that high quality imagery to confirm it has been missing until now," Pilfold said.