An amazing Black Leopard (or Black Panther). We had spent many hours trying to find a Black Leopard in Laikipia, Kenya. A 14 month old female cub was in the area but very hard to find. She was still close to her mother but was in the process of being forced from the area by the presence of a male Leopard intent on mating with her mother. We hoped to spot her before she left the area. Then one night we found her across the river on an Impala which had been killed by her mother. Amazing!
The filming conditions were difficult. It was dark and the only illumination was from the spotting torches on our vehicles. So the light was dancing around and changing all the time. Also, it was necessary to use a very high ISO. To make matters worse she was some distance from us. As a consequence the resulting film is of a poor quality. Nevertheless, a sighting of a Black Leopard in Africa is a very rare thing so I went ahead and filmed the action, anyway!
The Black Leopard ( also known as a Black Panther or Melanistic Leopard) was gorging herself on the Impala carcass. As we watched she was joined by her mother. A very special encounter! However, their reunion was fleeting as Hyenas chased them off the carcass and began to feed themselves. It was rather a gruesome sight. One of the Hyenas dragged the Impala carcass away and we thought our short-lived encounter with the Black Leopard was over. However, to our delight, the Black Leopard reappeared and put on a fine display for us. She was grooming, prowling around and then finally climbed a nearby tree. In the darkness she came down out of the tree and vanished into the night. What an outstanding sighting of an amzing Black Leopard (or Black Panther).
Black leopards are most frequently found in Southeast Asia in densely forested habitats. In Africa, their frequency and distribution is unknown. Melanism is caused by mutations in two genes involved in the pathway for melanin production. These studies have been done primarily in animals from Southeast Asia and very little is known about the genetics of melanism in African Leopards. Melanistic Leopards whilst being predominantly black still have discernible underlying patterns of rosettes and spots.