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Melanism is the opposite of albinism: it's when a gene is selected that causes a surplus of pigment instead of its absence, resulting in a black-on-black fur, although the patterns of the animals are often still discernible, as in Pilford's photo of the panther.

British photographer Will Burrard-Lucas managed to get once-in-a-lifetime images of the elusive animal, the first time anybody has secured a photo of one in almost 100 years.

This wild black leopard was photographed with a Camtraptions camera trap in Laikipia Wilderness Camp, Kenya.

Burrard-Lucas set up a Camtraptions camera trap, including motion sensors, which was able to photograph the rare beast.

"The next day I eagerly checked the cameras but had no images of leopards", Burrard-Lucas wrote on his website. 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 don't think it sank in immediately what I'd managed to achieve, it was such an unusual subject".

The images were captured by researchers from the San Diego Zoo who have been studying leopards in the Loisaba wildlife conservancy, as well as an independent photographer working in the region at the same time.

The extremely rare sighting as well as capturing of a black leopard is believed to be the first of its kind on African soil for the first time in over 100 years.

National Geographic adds that there are nine leopard subspecies ranging from Africa all the way to eastern Russian Federation. The elder told him he had seen a black leopard, which he said are known in the Samburu language as "calf killers".

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"Black panther is a looser term".

"Black leopards are usually associated with dense forests where their dark colouration may help them hide in the shadows", Burrard-Lucas explained.

While there have been reported sightings, black leopards are still considered rare in the continent, Pilfold said.

The elusive African black leopard is alive and well and living in Kenya - and there are new pictures to prove it.

But their existence is quite rare.

The black leopard was spotted near Loisaba Conservancy by biologist Nick Pilfold. While there have been reports of black panther sightings in Africa, the last confirmed one was in Ethiopia in 1909.

The black panther is the melanistic color variant of any of the big cat species.

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


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