Researchers from the San Diego Zoo in an observation exercise spotted rare black leopards in Laikipia County in Kenya. The real Black Panther spotted in Kenya, but is it the first time in 100 years?
Also known as black panthers, the melanistic leopards were captured and filmed with remote camera traps.
According to the San Diego Zoo, though African leopards have the largest subspecies of their kind, observations of melanistic leopards are very rare. The Zoo further explains melanism as “a gene mutation occurrence where the coat appears completely black in the daytime.”
“Regionally we’ve heard reports of black leopards living here in Kenya, but high-quality footage or imagery to support these observations has always been missing,” said Nicholas Pilfold, a San Diego Zoo Global scientist in the statement. “That’s what we’ve provided here with our cameras, and now we’re able to confirm what has been long suspected about black leopards living in Laikipia County.”
Speaking with CNN, Pilford said the last confirmed observation of black leopards on the continent was over a hundred years ago.
“Black leopards in Africa are extremely rare, and prior to the observations in our published paper, the last confirmed observation was 1909 in Ethiopia.”
However, the National Geographic also reports that employees of the Ol Ari Nyiro Conservancy in Kenya, after hearing of Pilford’s sighting, showed them a high-resolution picture of a black leopard that was taken in 2007 to which the researchers deduced was of a “different individual” since it was over 10 years old.
A section of Kenyans on social media also claimed the sightings of these black leopards are not as rare as it’s being claimed:
This leopard has been spotted times and again by mountain climbers at Mt Kenya. This is not new the only new thing is the cameras on your phone
— Grace Wanjiru (@Shish_kabucho) February 13, 2019
According to the San Diego Zoo, African leopards are listed as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species to which they blame on factors including habitat loss and fragmentation, competition for prey, conflict with livestock and farmers, and
Take a look at some of the photos of the latest black panther sighting: