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A British wildlife photographer has captured images of an extremely rare African black leopard.

These black-coated leopards were sighted by Burrard-Lucas in Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya, where he been camping since January.

A 2017 paper tracked melanism in leopards globally but researchers only had reference to one high-quality photo of a black leopard taken in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 1909. "That was enough for me and I chose to invest some time in checking it out", he writes. He uses the Camtraptions motion sensor to trigger "a high quality DSLR or mirrorless camera and two or three flashes", he told Hyperallergic. He checked them and saw multiple photos of hyenas, but not a leopard.

"I couldn't believe it and it took a few days before it sank in that I had achieved my dream", Burrard-Lucas writes on his blog. "I set up my camera traps up on this trail and it was there that I captured my first image of the black leopard". "So I've left the cameras for a few days and now I'm heading back to see if I've got anything".

"Almost everyone has a story about seeing one, it's such a mythical thing", says Mr Pilfold, of San Diego Zoo Global's Institute for Conservation Research. In early 2018, they were able to spot the mysterious black leopard, estimated to be a 2-year-old female, at least five times - February 16, Feb. 28, March 11, March 15 and April 14 - five different locations.

The leopard has a condition known as melanism, which makes the body produce an excess of pigment, turning her coat a deep, inky black.

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Any big cat species with melanism is referred to as a black panther, such as black leopards in Asia and Africa and black jaguars in the Americas.

A Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) official, Paul Gathitu divulged to Kenyans.co.ke that KWS officers had also come across melanistic leopards in the Aberdare forest during a fencing exercise.

Melanistic leopards have been reported in and around Kenya for decades. However, as news of his find quickly spread across the continent, folks at the Ol Ari Nyiro Conservancy, about 30 miles west of Loisaba, produced their own photo of a black leopard, taken in 2007.

Nine subspecies of leopard range across Africa and Asia, but melanistic versions of the cats are not evenly distributed between them.

He marveled at the coincidence of the location of an animal that's also called the black panther, the title of one of last year's biggest movies.

Burrard-Lucas got wind of a possible sighting of the creature lurking in the camp and contacted the owners, and he was told there had been several black leopard sightings over the years.