With inky black fur and huge glowing eyes, the black panther is nearly mythical — and his elusive nature means he is rarely caught on camera.
But thanks to wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas, the world is getting a glimpse of one of these big cats in Africa for the first time in nearly 100 years.
On a recent trip to Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya, Burrard-Lucas set up a Camtraptions trail camera in hopes of capturing a shot of a black panther — a term that can be used for any black big cat, but in Africa is usually applied to a black leopard.
The first few nights, only hyenas appeared in the frames — but eventually, the photographer’s patience paid off.
On the fourth night, with a full moon shining down, a huge black cat ventured right into Burrard-Lucas’ camera range, resulting in some stunning portraits of a rather mysterious animal.
Black leopards are extremely rare, with only a tiny percentage of the overall population having dark fur.
Most recorded sightings of the animals have been reported in the forests of Asia. But in Africa, where the photos were taken, dark, or melanistic, leopards are even more rare.
“We had always heard about black leopards living in this region, but the stories were absent of high-quality footage that could confirm their existence,” Nicholas Pilfold, PhD, lead researcher for a leopard conservation program in Laikipia County, said in a press release.
“Collectively these are the first confirmed images in nearly 100 years of a black leopard in Africa, and this region is the only known spot in all of Africa to have a black leopard.”
Black panthers can also be found in South America — though there, they term applies to black jaguars instead of leopards.
Burrard-Lucas was stunned by the images, and wildlife lovers around the world are just as excited.
“Since childhood I have been fascinated by stories of black panthers,” Burrard-Lucas said in a blog post about the photos.
“For me, no animal is shrouded in more mystery, no animal more elusive, and no animal more beautiful. Nobody I knew had ever seen one in the wild, and I never thought that I would either. But that didn’t stop me [from] dreaming.”
Source: The Dodo