Black panther: Rare animal caught on camera in Kenya

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Many believe their handsome black coat gives them an advantage when it comes to hunting.

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.

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

He said he left his cameras outside for several nights. I had a quick look at the last trap, not expecting to find much.

The big cat, also known as a black panther, was pictured by remote cameras in Laikipia County which were set up to study the dynamics of leopard populations after reports of sightings in the area.

Pilford first encountered a back leopard after spending three days searching the Kabini Forest in India.

"I do however believe that they are the first high-quality camera trap photographs", Will Burrard-Lucas, wildlife photographer and founder of Camtraptions, wrote in a blog update. "I never expected to get shots of one", Burrard-Lucas said, explaining that leopards are very shy and secretive. The 2013 image in particular, he said, "is a captive black leopard that was brought from America as a kitten to Kenya, not wild".

Black leopards are usually associated with dense forests where their dark colouration is thought to help them hide in the shadows.

He leads a conservation project in partnership with the San Diego Zoo and has been independently tracking leopards for a year and half.

Will Burrard-Lucas / Camtraptions Ltd.

Its wide eyes can be seen looking eagerly for prey, while leopard-like spots can vaguely be seen on its sooty coat, which is the result of melanism. It didn't take long for the cameras to capture footage of the extremely rare melanistic panther.

A black leopard is defined as the melanistic colour variant of any big cat species. Typically in Africa and Asia that would mean a melanistic leopard - a black leopard.

His photographs show a black leopard prowling through Laikipia Wilderness Camp in the plains of Kenya, below a full moon.

"They're a very elusive cat", he told NPR. "The only place where we have black leopards is where this place in the Marvel Universe appears to exist". 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.

Kenyan conservationist Paula Kahumbu said there have been many unconfirmed sightings of black leopards, but this is the first time one has been proven.