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Recent Work: Laikipia Plateau and my encounters with Giza Mrembo:
the Beautiful Darkness

Kenya, January 2024:

 

Between April 2018 and January 2024, I spent close to 90 days, or more than 700 hours of field time in search of melanistic leopards. First in India's Nagarhole Tiger Reserve, then in the Aberdare mountains of central Kenya, then back in India, and again in Kenya on the Laikipia Plateau. Countless times I missed the famous black leopard of Kabini by minutes, and even seconds. A jungle exploding with alarm calls by chital deer, sambar, gaur, langurs, and numerous birds surrounding me, big smiles of professional cinematographers, amateur photographers, and largely clueless random visitors showing me the photographs they captured on professional cameras and mobile phones, moments before my arrival at a scene.

Malini and I decided to give it another try in early January on the Laikipia Plateau. A melanistic female leopard now patrols the area surrounding Laikipia Wilderness Camp. Just two years ago when visiting Laikipia we were told about a yellow-coloured female leopard leading a black cub. Successfully so, it appears! Giza Mrembo, "The Beautiful Darkness" has now carved out a territory for herself in this spectacular part of central Kenya.

For several days and nights we could follow this animal during its patrol duty and hunting, crossing the Ewaso Narok river at various crossings, depending on water levels. At times I couldn't believe what I was privileged to observe and photograph. Giza Mrembo certainly deserves all our respect. She is an amazing animal and will hopefully pass on the recessive genes to ensure future generations of Laikipia leopards give birth to black cubs.

I hope you enjoy what you find here!

As a note of caution: although the places we visited are situated at about 1'800m - 2'600m above sea level and are generally considered to be low-risk areas for malaria, I contracted the disease (Plasmodium falciparum) this time. Climate change, along with El Niño force us to redraw the lines of what used to be low and lower risk areas.

© Patrick Meier - www.mywilderness.net

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