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Rare black leopard sighting in Kenya may challenge science


LAIKIPIA COUNTY, Kenya (CIRCA) — San Diego Zoo cameras caught a glimpse of a rare cat in Kenya.

It may look like a normal leopard, but that's because it's seen under infrared night vision, where the predator's spots are visible. In daylight, this melanistic leopard — commonly known as a black leopard or panther — looks all black. It's an exciting find, because stories of black leopards living in this part of Kenya have never been verified by video.

According to Nick Pilfold, a global conservation scientist at the San Diego Zoo, it's the first time a black leopard has been photographed on the African continent since 1909.

The discovery may also 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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