"All I can see is eyes", he says, smiling, "but this is a black leopard emerging from the darkness".
The researchers captured on camera the rare female black leopard in separate incidences between February and April 2018 in Loisaba Conservancy in Nanyuki, pictures that have since gone viral, also with the Kenya Wildlife service confirming them.
Rare photographs of an African black leopard have been released more than a century after the wild animal was last captured on film. "Black leopards in Africa are extremely rare, and prior to the observations in our published paper, the last confirmed observation was 1909 in Ethiopia", added Pilfold. With help from a local tour guide and other leopard researchers in Laikipia County, who followed tracks believed to belong to the leopard, Burrard-Lucas eventually settled on what he considered the flawless spot to set up Camtraptions Camera Traps. "We intensified our camera placement in the area the reports were being made", he said Tuesday night.
With the help of a guide, he set up Camtraptions camera traps along a path where they found fresh footprints - though it was unclear if the tracks belonged to a black leopard or a regular spotted one.
"I couldn't believe it", Burrard-Lucas writes in a blog post. "I never expected to get shots of one", Burrard-Lucas said, explaining that leopards are very shy and secretive. "So I've left the cameras for a few days and now I'm heading back to see if I've got anything".
Early previous year, Pilfold and his team placed remote cameras near the conservancy after they heard reports of a possible black leopard, also called a black panther.
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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.
There are nine leopard subspecies located from Africa all the way to eastern Russian Federation.
Over the next several days, he captured more photos of the black leopard. "Most recorded sightings of black leopards have thus been in the forests of Asia".
Although not a black panther, the biologists believe the leopard may be the panther's mother.
Melanistic leopards have been reported in and around Kenya for decades. For example, the researchers noted that a different subspecies of black leopard is much more common than lighter spotted ones in certain parts of Asia.
A black panther is basically a melanistic big cat.