However, the Daily Nation, a Kenyan newspaper, challenged that claim on Wednesday, saying one of its photographers had succeeded in photographing a black leopard in 2013.
Melanism occurs in about 11 percent of leopards globally, but most cases are concentrated in South East Asia.
“Black panther” is the popular name for any big cat with melanism, the recessive genetic condition that causes a black coat. In Africa and Asia, that generally refers to leopards. In Latin America, black panthers are usually jaguars.
Melanism in big cats is linked to a mutation of a signalling protein that affects pigmentation. The lone female photographed by Mr Burrard-Lucas is probably the offspring of non-melanistic parents.
It has been hypothesised that the condition is more frequent in hot and tropical environments, although it is not entirely clear if there is an evolutionary factor at work.