Africa is well known for its amazing and abundant wildlife, but occasionally there are still creatures that surprise and astound there. Take for instance the news this week that a very rare black leopard has been spotted in Kenya, marking the first time that such a big cat has been seen there in more than a century.
According to National Geographic, rumors of the black female leopard began circulating in early 2018, which spurred research biologist Nick Pilford to set up a number of camera traps to see if he could catch a glimpse of her. Pilford and his team deployed the traps in the Loisaba Conservancy and before long they had obtained photographic proof that extremely rare leopard was there.
Black leopards are the result of a rare condition known as melanism, which causes the creature’s body to create higher levels of the dark pigment in an animals fur or skin, causing them to appear black in color. Nat Geo says that black leopards have been reported in east Africa for decades, but none have ever been confirmed, let alone photographed. This most recent sighting is the first scientifically documented sighting in history.
“Almost everyone has a story about seeing one, it’s such a mythical thing,” Pilfold tells National Geographic. “Even when you talk to the older guys that were guides in Kenya many years ago, back when hunting was legal [in the 1950s and ‘60s], there was a known thing that you didn’t hunt black leopards. If you saw them, you didn’t take it.”
Since Pilford began showing off his photos, another image of a black leopard taken in 2007 has resurfaced as well. But the new cat is a young female, still traveling with her mother, so the two images can’t be of the same animal. That would lead some researchers to believe that perhaps these elusive creatures appear in larger numbers than once thought, although they are seldom seen so the remain extremely rare.
Read more about this amazing discovery on the National Geographic website.