How rare is it? So rare that the last photograph of a black African leopard was taken in 1909 in Ethiopia. That is over 100 years ago. With that in mind, it is safe to say that such a sighting is probably a once in a lifetime event. That is how rare these black African leopards are and why there is such a buzz about the photographs.

Photo by: Will Burrard-Lucas

Why So Black?

Firstly, here is a little education about these black feline creatures. Black leopards are also loosely referred to as black panthers. The sooty black nature of their coat is due to melanism, the opposite of albinism. Melanism occurs in about 11% of leopards worldwide. However, most of these “black panthers” are found in South East Asia. Spotting one in Africa is quite rare. One would have to go back 110 years for the last confirmed photograph of a black leopard in Africa.

An African Legend

The black African leopard has always been the stuff of legend and folklore in Africa. A few people here and there have claimed to spot the mysterious big cat. However, such claims more often than not remain to be just that. Claims. Further feeding into the legend of the African black leopard.

Photo by: Will Burrard-Lucas

How It Went Down

Will Burrard-Lucas, a British wildlife photographer, is credited with having snapped the photos of the leopard. Well, he did not actually do it himself as he had ingeniously set up a Camtraptions camera trap fitted with motion detectors. The sophisticated camera is meant to take photos of anything that moves. Will set up the camera after a tip from locals that a black leopard had been spotted in the area of Laikipia Wilderness Camp. Will worked with a tracker to establish the likely territory and movement of the leopard afterwhich he chose a spot to set up the camera and hoped for the best.

After a few nights of hyena shots and normal-colored leopards, Will finally got lucky one day. As he went through the photos taken the previous night, Will was just about to give up when he was met by “a pair of eyes surrounded by inky darkness.” Immediately he knew exactly what he was looking at. A black African leopard! Will Burrard-Lucas writes about this enchanting experience on his blog and details his journey to photograph the black leopard.

With such international attention on the leopard, it is worth mentioning that the leopard is classified as critically endangered by the International Union of Conservation of Nature’s Red List. You can also see a list of 5 Endangered Species to See in Kenya.

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