Black leopard photos are awesome but not first in 100 years

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The leopard has a condition known as melanism, which makes the body produce an excess of pigment, turning her coat a deep, inky black.

For the first time in a century, a rare melanistic leopard, commonly called a "black panther", has been photographed in Kenya.

The leopard, spotted in Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya, has often been seen but getting pictures of it has proven to be very hard. 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.

"Over the days that followed I moved the camera traps around as I gained a deeper understanding of the leopard's movements".

"Almost everyone has a story about seeing one, it's such a mythical thing", says Mr Pilfold, of San Diego Zoo Global's Institute for Conservation Research. And on the fourth night, he was able to snap high-quality photos of a black leopard - a sight he couldn't believe that he caught with his cameras.

"We conclude that melanism in leopards is strongly affected by natural selection, likely driven by efficacy of camouflage and/or thermoregulation in different habitats, along with an effect of moisture that goes beyond its influence on vegetation type", the authors wrote.

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Slinking through the darkness, these stunning images show an ultra-rare black leopard in action.

A black leopard lounging at the The Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve.

Pilfold's team of biologists had placed remote wildlife cameras to track the leopard population near a conservancy in the Laikipia County a year ago when they heard reports of a possible black leopard sighting.

Image copyright Burrard-Lucas Photography Image caption Dad? Among leopards, an all black coat is caused by a recessive allele, which means the trait must be inherited from both of the cat's parents.

"It's really neat. The black panthers we have are very close to the fictional ones of Wakanda", he said. "However, despite African leopards having the largest remaining range out of any of the subspecies, there has only been one confirmed case of melanism prior to these images", he told the Daily Mail. They are more often recorded in the forests of Asia, but even there sightings are rare. The 2013 image in particular, he said, "is a captive black leopard that was brought from America as a kitten to Kenya, not wild".

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