Melanistic leopards are iconic creatures with a movie themed around the mythical animal interestingly based within the hypothetical land of "Wakanda" in East Africa, the same region in which the actual black panther was spotted and captured on camera.
A wildlife photographer captured stunning images of a rare African black leopard, which would be among the first high-quality photos of such a creature on the continent. I think when I started this project I didn't actually think I was going to be able to achieve a shot of a black leopard in Africa but that it is exactly what is here on the back of my camera.
The black leopard is one majestic looking cat.
Ever since Burrard-Lucas was a child, he's been fascinated by the lore and stories of the elusive black panther, and only dreamed of ever seeing one.
According to the team's paper published in the African Journal of Ecology, there have been sightings of the black leopard, but the last confirmed photographic evidence was taken in Ethiopia in 1909.
This doesn't mean the big cat is totally black though, with Mr Burrard-Lucas' pictures revealing typical markings hidden within the leopard's glossy, sooty coat. The 2013 image in particular, he said, "is a captive black leopard that was brought from America as a kitten to Kenya, not wild".
Nick Pilfold and his team, after hearing that there's a black wildcat lurking in the are, deployed remote cameras to capture the big cat.
Nine subspecies of leopard range across Africa and Asia, but melanistic versions of the cats are not evenly distributed between them.
The leopard is black as a result of a gene that causes a surplus pigment in the skin or hair of the animal - known as melanism - so that it appears black. He complimented Burrard-Lucas's photos because "having images of that quality really hits home".
With the help of a guide, he set up Camtraptions camera traps along a path where they found fresh footprints - though it was unclear if the tracks belonged to a black leopard or a regular spotted one.
"It is certain black panthers have been there all along, but good footage that could confirm it has always been absent until now", San Diego institute scientist Nicholas Pilfold wrote on an Instagram post. After a few months, Pilfold said the biologists "were rewarded with multiple observations on our cameras".