Rare African ‘black panther’ captured on camera in Kenya

Rare African ‘black panther’ captured on camera in Kenya
Nick Pilfold, a global conservation scientist at the San Diego Zoo said the female leopard's coat color is pitch black as a result of melanism, a gene mutation that results in an over-production of pigment. (Source: SAN DIEGO ZOO/CNN)

LAIKIPIA COUNTY, KENYA (CNN) - Black leopards, commonly known as black panthers, have previously been reported, but not confirmed.

"It is likely that black leopards have been living in Kenya all along, it is only that high-quality imagery to confirm it has been missing until now," Nick Pilfold, a global conservation scientist at the San Diego Zoo said.

It's an exciting find, because stories of black leopards living in this part of Kenya have never been verified by video.

Scientists say this is the first time the animal has been photographed in Africa since 1909.

Under infrared night vision, It may look like a normal leopard - where the predator’s spots are visible.

But In daylight, this melanistic leopard looks all black.

The female leopard's coat color is pitch black as a result of melanism, a gene mutation that results in an over-production of pigment, Pilfold said.

He says this condition is the opposite of albinism.

The discovery may force scientists to re-think how the gene mutation that turns regular leopards into panthers happens.

Scientists thought it occurred more frequently among leopards living in densely forested habitats, where shade is more common.

That wouldn't explain why black leopards are now being spotted in Laikipia County, which is mostly arid.

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