What we know as panthers, such as Bagheera from The Jungle Book, are big cats, usually jaguars or leopards, that have a gene mutation affecting color. While 11% of leopards have this melanism, most of them are in Asia (like Bagheera). You may be surprised to learn that the last confirmed evidence of a black leopard in Africa was in Ethiopia in 1909! That is, until now. Reports of a black leopard sighting in Kenya drew scientist Nick Pilfold of the San Diego Zoo to investigate. He took along a team of biologists and wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas, who long dreamed of capturing images of a black panther.
"For me, no animal is shrouded in more mystery, no animal more elusive, and no animal more beautiful," he posted on his blog. "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."
Burrard-Lucas said he shot the images at Laikipia Wilderness Camp using a Camtraptions Camera, which focuses on wildlife photography and footage. The cameras were placed near animal trails, and water sources such as pools and natural springs. They were left on 24 hours a day in most places but were only turned on at night in public places, according to the African Journal of Ecology.