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Watch rare footage of a black panther spotted in Kenya

14 February 2019

"All I can see is eyes", he says, smiling, "but this is a black leopard emerging from the darkness".

An extremely rare black leopard, also known as the black panther, has been recently spotted in Kenya, which marks the first recorded sighting of the elusive animal in over a 100 years on the African soil.

"My ears pricked up and I contacted the owners Steve and Annabelle Carey to find out more".

The previously confirmed sighting - which was also caught on film - of a black leopard in Africa was back in 1909 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, according to the paper. "That was enough for me and I chose to invest some time in checking it out", he writes.

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Photographer Will Burrard-Lucas used a special type of camera set up called Camtraptions, which he created to take pictures of the shiest of animals.

Pilford explained the majority of leopards in Southeast Asia are black - with the black colour being seen as an evolutionary advantage in the jungles of India and Malaysia.

"I couldn't believe it", Burrard-Lucas writes in a blog post. "So I've left the cameras for a few days and now I'm heading back to see if I've got anything".

Nicholas Pilfold PhD, a biologist with San Diego Zoo Global who is now researching leopards at Laikipia's Loisaba Conservancy and helped Burrard-Lucas with his photography project, confirmed that the recent on-camera sighting was extremely rare.

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"There have been sightings of black leopards in Kenya [and Ethiopia] for a long time ... but in terms of good-quality imagery, these images we have are very rare", he told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview.

The leopard is melanistic, a rare genetic mutation that causes it to sometimes appear completely black. The lone female photographed by Mr Burrard-Lucas is probably the offspring of non-melanistic parents. "Surely I was not going to be lucky enough to actually photograph a melanistic African leopard?!" Conservation scientist Nicholas Pilford estimates that only 11 per cent of the world's leopards have it.

However, he went on to note that he's "not claiming that these are the first photos of a black leopard taken in Africa". For example, the researchers noted that a different subspecies of black leopard is much more common than lighter spotted ones in certain parts of Asia.

Throughout history, only a single sighting of a black leopard has been photographically documented.

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Pilfold's trap paid off, resulting in a black and white portrait of the big cat slinking through the undergrowth.

Watch rare footage of a black panther spotted in Kenya