They say that black cats bring bad luck, but when Nick Pilfold heard about one lurking around central Kenya, he knew he was onto something special.
Burrard-Lucas became the first wildlife photographer to photograph the leopard in more than a century.
The Kenya-based biologist and his team deployed a set of camera traps throughout the bushlands of Loisaba Conservancy in early 2018. It wasn’t long before he got what he was looking for: undeniable proof of a super-rare melanistic leopard.
I had a quick look at the last trap, not expecting to find much,’ Burrard-Lucas wrote on his blog. ‘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.’
Nicholas Pilfold, who is from the Institute for Conservation Research at the San Diego Zoo, heard about the wild black leopard and deployed a team of photographers. Published in January in the African Journal of Ecology, these photos represent the first scientific documentation of such a creature in Africa in nearly a century. As recently as 2017, only a single sighting had been confirmed—a 1909 photograph taken in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
“We had always heard about black leopard living in this region,” Pilfold told USA Today. “Collectively these are the first confirmed images in nearly 100 years of a black leopard in Africa, and this region is the only known spot in all of Africa to have [the] black leopard.”