Nick Pilfold, a scientist in Population Sustainability, at the San Diego Zoo Global heard there may be some rare big cats lurking around central Kenya. So in 2018 the Kenya-based biologist and his team set out to deploy camera traps throughout the bushlands of Loisaba Conservancy.
It wasn't long until they had undeniable proof of a super-rare melanistic leopard on video. What they saw was a young female traveling with a larger leopard thought to be its mother.
REMOTE CAMERAS CONFIRM RARE BLACK LEOPARDS LIVING IN KENYA
San Diego Zoo Global Researchers have confirmed the presence of rare black leopards living in Laikipia County, Kenya.
FOOTAGE PROVIDER: SAN DIEGO ZOO
Melanism is the result of a gene that causes a surplus of pigment in the skin or hair of an animal giving it its black appearance. (The opposite of albinism.) Although melanistic leopards have been reported in and around Kenya for years, the scientist had no proof or confirmation of their existence until now.
1909 was the last confirmed 'photo' sighting. A photograph taken in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that is stored in the collections of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. Black Leopards and leopards, in general, are getting extremely rare with numbers declining by at least 66 percent due to an increase in prey decline and habitat loss.
Black leopards are sometimes referred to as "black panthers", which is a term predominantly used to refer to any big cat with a black coat.
Leopards have a range from Africa to eastern Russia with nine subspecies. There is thought to be that only 11 percent of leopards alive today are melanistic with most found in Southeast Asia, where there is an abundance of shaded tropical forests.