Black Panther has been nominated for seven Oscars, and it seems that the elusive real-life creature just might be in a celebratory mood. As actress Lupita Nyong’o tweeted yesterday, the sighting of an actual black panther is a very rare event, especially in Africa. That didn’t stop this melanistic variant of a leopard from making a recent appearance that some are calling the first East African black panther sighting in 100 years.
British wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas heard rumors of a black panther prowling the Laikipia Wilderness Camp. Burrard-Lucas was determined to capture this rare event on film and headed to East Africa to accomplish his goal. The results of his dedication to documenting wildlife are stunning and have left many debating over how rare his images actually are.
Per BBC News, researcher Nicholas Pilford, Ph.D., referred to Burrard-Lucas’ photos as “the first confirmed images in nearly 100 years of a black leopard in Africa.” Kenyan newspaper the Daily Nation disputes this claim, though, and reported that a similar-looking animal was actually photographed in 2013. Daily Nation did confirm that the only other known modern photograph of a black panther in that area was taken in 1909.
Black panthers are much more than simply unusual; they’re not even an official species. That’s because the cats that people refer to as black panthers are actually any type of large feline species with a black coat. National Geographic indicated that the agouti gene is responsible for this melanistic rarity, and it’s most frequently found in leopards and jaguars. As a result, there’s no official count of black panthers worldwide, but they’re not believed to be a common sighting anywhere on earth.
Rare images of a #BlackLeopard, captured in Laikipia Kenya.
Black leopards have previously been sighted by locals, but rarely photographed.
— Mutheu Mutua ???????? (@AKenyanGirl) February 13, 2019
Lupita Nyong’o helped call attention to Kenyan’s recently photographed black panther with a tweet that captured close to 6,000 likes. Nyong’o portrayed Nakia in Black Panther. She’s also known for her role as Maz Kanata in the new Star Wars trilogy and is the female lead in the upcoming Jordan Peele movie Us. One commenter on Nyong’o’s tweet stated that these creatures aren’t hard to spot in Kenya.
“100 years by a white man!! We see them almost daily.”
Some have speculated that the true rarity is in photographing these huge cats.
— Lupita Nyong'o (@Lupita_Nyongo) February 13, 2019
Black Panther the movie, which is available from Amazon, is based on a Marvel comic book series. The titular character is part of the Avengers but spends most of his time protecting Wakanda. Geek Tyrant reported that Marvel is currently giving away five digital copies of Black Panther comics as part of their Black History Month celebration.
Will the real-life sighting of a black panther near the region that’s embraced Wakanda bring good luck for the cast and crew? Lupita Nyong’o and the rest of the Black Panther creative team will find out on February 24 at the 91st Academy Awards.