Photo of rare black leopard captured for first time in 100 years

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"The opposite of albinism, melanism is the result of a gene that causes a surplus of pigment in the skin or hair of an animal so that it appears black".

"We are very excited to hear that these camera traps have captured rare footage of melanistic leopards, otherwise known as black panthers", the conservation group announced.

The leopard, spotted in Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya, has often been seen but getting pictures of it has proven to be very hard.

Burrard-Lucas used a series of Camtraptions camera traps, a system he devised, that included a wireless motion sensor and a high-quality camera. On returning, I checked them and by the time I got to the last camera, all I had seen were pictures of hyenas but no leopards.

"I couldn't believe it", Burrard-Lucas writes in a blog post.

"As I scrolled through the images on the back of the camera, I paused and peered at the photograph [at top of page] in incomprehension...a pair of eyes surrounded by inky darkness... a black leopard!" he said. He took several photos at night with the hope of capturing photos of a leopard.

Pilford told CNN that he's "aware of a few different photos taken over the years, but a lot of them are taken from a distance and could not be used as confirmatory evidence".

National Geographic adds that there are nine leopard subspecies ranging from Africa all the way to eastern Russian Federation.

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Nine subspecies of leopard range across Africa and Asia, but melanistic versions of the cats are not evenly distributed between them.

It took about four days before he finally got his big break and captured a wild black leopard, an accomplishment that hasn't been equalled in possibly a century.

A rare black leopard, caught on camera in Laikipia Wilderness Camp, Kenya.

Burrard-Lucas' images can now be found in the African Journal of Ecology. Only a small percentage of all leopards are black. In real-life, however the black panther is a real creature who has almost mythic status thanks to having not been seen in nearly 100 years.

A black leopard lounging at the The Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve.

Pilford said most recorded sightings of black leopards have been spotted in Asian forests.

But their existence is quite rare. The 2013 image in particular, he said, "is a captive black leopard that was brought from America as a kitten to Kenya, not wild".

And, after the Laikipia images were released, the Ol Ari Nyiro Conservancy produced a high-quality image of a black leopard taken in 2007, National Geographic reported.

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