There are few photographs of black leopards in the wild, as not only are these beautiful beasts rare and shy of human contact, they are very hard to spot. The photograph above may be the first of the elusive cat in the wild in Africa for a century.
Panther is another term for an all-black leopard, and sometimes the leopards’ characteristic “rosette” spots can be seen, as here.
Only a small proportion of leopards are black. The ones that are usually live in dense forests in Asia, where their dark colouring helps them blend in as they hunt. Imagine this one emerging from the shadows with its eyes on you.
UK photographer Will Burrard-Lucas had been trying to photograph a panther for years when he heard of sightings near Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya, so he went to visit. The owner soon picked up some fresh leopard tracks nearby and Burrard-Lucas set up camera traps.
After several nights of capturing nothing but hyenas, he was scrolling through images on the last camera when he found he was looking at “a pair of eyes surrounded by inky darkness”.
“No animal is more elusive,” wrote Burrard-Lucas on his blog. “ Nobody I knew had ever seen one in the wild and I never thought that I would either.”
These are the first confirmed images of a panther in Africa in nearly 100 years, said Nicholas Pilford at San Diego Zoo Global in a statement.
Burrard-Lucas’s technique of making camera traps that set off high-quality lighting has also managed to catch elephants, lions and wildebeests.
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