Wildlife Photographer Will Burrard-Lucas has made waves in conservation and photography circles this week, having shared images via his website and Instagram of what may be the first high quality photos of a melanistic leopard in Africa.
These cats, famed for their elusiveness and beauty, are seen in India but rumours have long existed of their existence on the African continent. Now, for the first time in maybe a century, we have proof out of Kenya of their existence.
In a blog on his website, which you can view here, Burrard-Lucas says he has long dreamed of this moment:
“Since childhood I have been fascinated by stories of black panthers. For me, no animal is shrouded in more mystery, no animal more elusive, and no animal more beautiful. For many years they remained the stuff of dreams and of farfetched stories told around the campfire at night. Nobody I knew had ever seen one in the wild and I never thought that I would either. But that didn’t stop me dreaming…”
Burrard-Lucas writes that, after friends at Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya mentioned seeing the elusive animal, he headed to the camp with dreams of catching it on camera. After days spent setting his camera traps and eagerly checking the results, he struck black gold:
“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.”
Melanistic leopards, often incorrectly referred to as black panthers, are a colour variant of leopards as we normally know them, but are the same species.
Whilst normally seen in India, and with these being the first high quality published images from Africa, they are thought to inhabit sub-Saharan areas of the continent.
To support the work of Will Burrard-Lucas, visit his website via this link.