An African black leopard also known as ‘Black Panther’ has been spotted in Kenya for the first time in 100 years.
Biologists captured the rare footage of a big cat walking majestically in Kenya, making it the first time the animal has been photographed in Africa since 1909.
Nick Pilfold, a San Diego Zoo global scientist, said they captured the footage after months of watching and waiting. His team of biologists had placed remote wildlife cameras to track the leopard population near Loisaba Conservancy in Laikipia County last year when they heard unconfirmed reports of a possible black leopard sighting.
“We intensified our camera placement in the area the reports were being made. Within a few months, we were rewarded with multiple observations on our cameras” he said
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 nighttime infrared imagery.
While there have been reports of sightings of black leopards the last confirmed observation was in Ethiopia more than a century ago, he said. Pilfold is part of a team from the San Diego Zoo working with local partners, including the Kenya Wildlife Service, to monitor leopard populations in the area and help preserve the species.
Leopards are described as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.
The total extent of the animal’s population decline is still unknown, San Diego Zoo said in a statement. But several factors have sharply reduced their numbers, including hunting, habitat loss, competition for prey, and conflict with livestock and farmers.