British wildlife photographer, Will Burrard-Lucas, on Monday, captured a series of high-quality images of a wild melanistic leopard (loosely referred to as a black panther) around the Laikipia Wilderness Camp, Kenya.
The extremely rare sighting as well as capturing of a black leopard is believed to be the first of its kind on African soil for the first time in over 100 years but looks like the experienced photographer got his lucky break at the Laikipia Wilderness Camp, a local wildlife haven in Laikipia County run by Steve Carey.
“The biggest challenge in this project was knowing where to put my camera traps. When I heard that a black leopard had been seen up at Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya my ears pricked up and I contacted the owners Steve and Annabelle Carey to find out more,” Will revealed in his blog post.
It was Steve who tipped off Will on the whereabouts of the elusive melanistic leopard, after picking up on fresh tracks allegedly belonging to the black panther, that had been spotted close to the wilderness camp.
The veteran wildlife photographer was then able to set up his Camtraptions camera traps at the most ideal spots and waited it out. It took about four days before he finally got his big break and captured a wild black leopard, an accomplishment that hasn’t been equalled in possibly a century.
Speaking to a local reporter, Annabelle Carey was audibly excited when asked about the rare sighting of the melanistic leopard close to their camp. She also affirmed Will’s short yet record-setting stay at their camp.
The findings from the Camtraptions remote cameras were recently published in the Journal of African Ecology.
Melanistic leopards are iconic creatures with a movie themed around the mythical animal interestingly based within the hypothetical land of ‘Wakanda’ in East Africa, the same region in which the actual black panther was spotted and captured on camera.
A Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) official, Paul Gathitu divulged to a local news agency that KWS officers had also come across melanistic leopards in the Aberdare forest during a fencing exercise. However, he was yet to receive photographic evidence of the same.
Contrary to popular belief, black panthers are not a species, the animals commonly referred to by these name are simply melanistic leopards and jaguars that have a mutation responsible for their dark or black coat.
Here are the images captured at the Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya by Will Burrad-Lucas