NAIROBI (AFP) – Whispers of sightings of the elusive black leopard have long swirled around central Kenya, and scientists have now confirmed its presence there with a series of rare images taken by camera traps.
The images were captured by researchers from the San Diego Zoo who have been studying leopards in the Loisaba wildlife conservancy, as well as an independent photographer working in the region at the same time.
“We are very excited to hear that these camera traps have captured rare footage of melanistic leopards, otherwise known as black panthers!” the conservancy said on its website.
Melanism is a genetic mutation like albinism, except it leads to a surplus in pigment that turns the fur or skin of an animal black.
The study, led by San Diego Zoo researcher Nicholas Pilfold and published in the African Journal of Ecology in January, said the photos represent the first scientific confirmation in a century of the black leopard’s presence in Africa.