Rare African Black Leopard photographed for first time in 110 years

Rare African Black Leopard photographed for first time in 110 years

BERLIN - JUNE 09: Newborn baby panthers Larisa and Sipura stare at photographers during a media presentation of the cubs at the Tierpark zoo on June 9, 2009 in Berlin, Germany. The two panthers are twins and were born on April 26. 

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — What was once thought a myth is now proven to be real.

The extremely rare African Black Leopard has been photographed for the first time since 1909, according to biologists with the San Diego Zoo.

The biologists were recently sent to Laikipia County, Kenya where they confirmed the existance of the leopards.

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“Regionally we’ve heard reports of black leopards living here in Kenya, but high-quality footage or imagery to support these observations has always been missing,” said Nicholas Pilfold, Ph.D., San Diego Zoo Global scientist. “That’s what we’ve provided here with our cameras, and now we’re able to confirm what has been long suspected about black leopards living in Laikipia County.”


The leopards have the largest range of any subspecies of leopard, yet observations of melanism are rare. Melanism is a gene mutation occurrence where the coat appears completely black in the daytime, but infrared imagery reveals the leopard’s iconic rosette patterns at night.