You often seen those articles about ‘perfectly timed photographs’ and they usually consist of a seagull nicking some poor woman’s ice cream or a seal photobombing a young child.

Sometimes the stars just align and you’re able to take that perfect pic; it’s an incredible moment in time that’s both fortuitous and brilliant in equal measure.

With that in mind, 35 year-old wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas may have just hit the jackpot, as he’s become the first person in over a century to photograph the rare African black leopard.

In fact, it’s so rare, the cat now has a mythical status given that so few people have seen it.

Burrard-Lucas captured the images in January, which were released to the public on Monday, at the Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya after hearing reports of sightings in the area.

The female leopard’s coat color is pitch black as a result of melanism, a gene mutation that results in an over-production of pigment. It’s the opposite of albinism — and although the leopard’s coat appears black during the day, its rosette patterns are visible in nighttime infrared imagery.

Reliving the moment he discovered the pictures on his photography blog, Mr Burrard-Lucas said:

“I had a quick look at the last trap, not expecting to find much.

“As I scrolled through the images on the back of the camera, I paused and peered at the photograph below in incomprehension … a pair of eyes surrounded by inky darkness … a black leopard! I couldn’t believe it and it took a few days before it sank in that I had achieved my dream.”

Honestly, imagine that feeling.

If you’re wondering how he was able to do it, he set up a Camtraptions camera trap and wireless motion sensors which were strategically placed.

Nicholas Pilford from San Diego Zoo, who assisted Burrard-Lucas with his project, said the photographs were the first close-up, high-quality images in nearly 100 years.

“This is what Will’s photos and the videos on our remote cameras now prove, and are exceptionally rare in their detail and insight,” he said.

“Collectively these are the first confirmed images in nearly 100 years of black leopard in Africa, and this region is the only known spot in all of Africa to have black leopard.” 

What an amazing story.

Thankfully there are people out there like Will who want to share the magnificence of these animals with the world rather then the arseholes who hunt them for sport.

Incredible stuff.

Images via Will Burrard Lucas