Kenya: UK Photographer Captures Pictures of Elusive Black Leopard

The first photograph captured: a pair of eyes surrounded by inky darkness.
13 February 2019

A wildlife photographer from the United Kingdom has captured images of a black leopard in Kenya.

In a blog post, Will Burrard-Lucus tells the story of hearing how a black leopard had been sighted in Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya.

"My ears pricked up and I contacted the owners Steve and Annabelle Carey to find out more. Steve confirmed that it was true and he had seen several black leopards over the years. That was enough for me and I decided to invest some time in checking it out," he writes.

He says that he used a plethora of camera traps each consisting of a Camtraptions wireless motion sensor, a high-quality DSLR camera and two or three flashes.

"I left the cameras for several more nights. 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 had a quick look at the last trap, not expecting to find much. As I scrolled through the images on the back of the camera, I paused and peered at the photograph below in incomprehension… a pair of eyes surrounded by inky darkness… a black leopard! I couldn't believe it and it took a few days before it sank in that I had achieved my dream," he writes.

British publication The Guardian reports that Nicholas Pilfold, from the institute for conservation research at the San Diego Zoo, has written an article in the African Journal of Ecology about the new photographic evidence captured by Burrard-Lucas.

The Guardian quotes Pilfold as saying that while there have been recorded reports of black leopards in Africa for more than a century, only one had been confirmed with photographic evidence, a 1909 photograph taken in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

NOTE: The headline of this story has been altered to reflect an update on Burrard-Lucas's blog, which reads: "For clarification, I am not claiming that these are the first photos of a black leopard taken in Africa. I do however believe that they are the first high-quality camera trap photographs. The headline, “first in 100 years,” appears to have beed derived from the following quote published by National Geographic: "these photos represent the first scientific documentation of such a creature in Africa in nearly a century". Please note, I had no input into the National Geographic article other than to supply the header image via the San Diego Zoo Press team and I acknowledge that the title of that article, and some of the claims made in articles that followed, are misleading."

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