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A rare sighting of what is believed to be a black leopard has been caught on camera in South Africa.
The footage was captured by a member of the public on their way to work on 24 February in the Gauteng Province and was shared with the Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation.
The foundation posted the video on its Facebook page and explained just how elusive the species tends to be.
It said: "It's the stuff that urban legends and folklore get built around. A phantom, an illusion, a shadow so rare that most people believe they don't actually exist.
"Fewer than 35 sightings of wild black leopards have ever been scientifically documented in South Africa in over half a century; and clear pictures or video evidence are virtually non-existent - most people having spotted these elusive phantoms crossing a road or disappearing into the bush without the chance to take a picture."
The leopard - which is also referred to as a black panther - derives its dark coat from melanism, the opposite of albinism. While albinism causes whiteness due to a lack of pigmentation, the genetic variation melanism results in an excess of dark pigmentation.
This doesn't mean the big cats are totally black though, as they have typical markings hidden within their glossy, sooty coats.
Since the footage was taken, the Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation has been keeping an eye out for the creature with a view to potentially collaring it and relocating it to a less heavily populated location - the specifics of which haven't been released in order to protect the species.
As of 3 March, the cat hadn't been seen - which is a good thing, according to the foundation.
It said: "After almost a week of monitoring the area with camera traps, there has been no sighting or pictures of the animal.
"We are hopeful that if it was indeed a leopard, it has returned to a less populated area in the wild. We did however need to attempt to verify it for the sake of the animal's safety.
"No sighting since, is a positive outcome."
Last year, a British photographer captured stunning photographs of a wild black leopard prowling through Laikipia Wilderness Camp in the plains of Kenya.
Will Burrard-Lucas used a camera trap and strategically-placed wireless motion sensors to capture the historic pics, which are well worth a look if you're now obsessed with the mysterious cats.
Featured Image Credit: Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation
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