Dr KARL SHUKER

Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. Author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), and more recently Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), and Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), his many fans have been badgering him to join the blogosphere for years. The CFZ Blog Network is proud to have finally persuaded him to do so.

ShukerNature - http://www.karlshuker.blogspot.com

Dr Karl Shuker's Official Website - http://www.karlshuker.com

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Tuesday, 12 June 2012

BLACK LIONS - MANIPULATION, MELANISM, AND MOZAICISM

Photoshopped black lion #1 (tumblr.com)

In recent weeks, two very stunning black lion photographs have been circulating online. One of them is the picture above, opening this ShukerNature blog post, and the other one is documented further down in it. Why they attracted such interest is that according to mainstream zoology, black lions simply do not exist. If they did, and were wholly black in colour, they would most probably be melanistic specimens, analogous if not homologous genetically with black panthers (melanistic leopards) and mutant all-black individuals of other felid species.

Sadly, for those hoping that these two photos therefore represented some major cryptozoological discovery, the reality, as is true ever more frequently nowadays, is that they are nothing more than Photoshopped images.

I traced Photo #1 (above) to the following specific link: http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m4qd4hvuEr1rv9dvno1_400.jpg (on the following site: martincito1.tumblr.com – which has now vanished!), but I have no idea whether martincito1 created it, or simply added it from elsewhere to their galleries of images there. However, it is unmistakeably a product of photomanipulation, because I also traced the original photo that had been used – depicting a normal tawny lion photographed in Namibia and present on the Leopalmerphotography website (it can be accessed at http://www.leopalmerphotography.co.uk/male%20lion.jpg).

Photoshopped black lion Photo #1 alongside the original Leopalmerphotography photo that the unknown photomanipulator has used to create it (tumblr.com/Leopalmerphotography.co.uk)

As for Photo #2 (below):

Photoshopped black lion #2 (PAulie-SVK/deviantART.com)

This is actually a photograph of a bona fide exotic lion – namely, a white lion – that has been skilfully converted digitally into a black one (I discovered the original photo on the following site http://www.cutehomepets.com/the-white-lion). Moreover, as I learnt when he kindly posted details upon my Facebook wall on 10 June, cryptozoological colleague Mike Covell successfully traced Photo #2 to digital artist PAulie-SVK, who had created it and placed it in one of their galleries on the deviantART.com site, after which it had been posted elsewhere online by persons unknown wrongly assuming it to be a genuine specimen. (Here is the specific page: http://paulie-svk.deviantart.com/art/Black-Melanistic-Lion-292088989)

Photoshopped black lion #2 (PAulie-SVK/deviantART.com) with original white lion photograph beneath it (cutehomepets.com)

A third online image of a black lion, see Photo #3 (below), is another Photoshopped black lion by PAulie-SVK (this time manipulating an image of a normal tawny lion), produced in wallpaper format (available here: http://paulie-svk.deviantart.com/art/Black-Lion-wallpaper-306684136)

Photoshopped black lion #3 (PAulie-SVK/deviantART.com)

The original, tawny lion photograph (http://www.serengetibook.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/lion-shutterstock.jpg) used to create the third black lion photo

But what about real black lions? What do we know of such ebony-furred enigmas? As already noted, no confirmed sightings exist and only a few sparse, unconfirmed reports, most of which I summarised as follows in my book Mystery Cats of the World (1989):

"According to W.L. Speight, in 1940, an experienced game warden once stated that he had spied a whole pride of pitch-black lions in the Kruger National Park. Half a century earlier, a very dark brown specimen had been killed by soldiers of the Luristan Regiment and was seen by archaeologist Sir Henry Layard at Ispahan in what is now Iran. And an account of a black lioness observed at very close quarters was included in Okavango, by June Kay."

Additionally, in a letter of 20 January 1980 to American cryptozoologist Loren Coleman (who has kindly shared its contents with me), wild cats author C.A.W. Guggisberg stated:

"While there are black leopards in the Aberdares, there never was any talk of black lions. A few years ago a rumour went round that black lion cubs were seen somewhere in western Tanzania, but this was never confirmed."

More recently, media reports emanating from South Africa in 2008 carried bizarre stories of big black lions that had allegedly escaped from the Kruger National Park and were now roaming the streets of Matsulu township outside the Mpumalanga capital, terrifying residents who claimed that they were too afraid to walk outside at night. No tangible evidence for their presence was produced, however, and even if lions were genuinely on the prowl there, they may well have simply been dark brown individuals, or normal lions that had rolled in black mud (like the specimens lately photographed at Madikwe, Tanzania, by Grant Marcus – click here http://www.grantmarcus.com/?p=670 to access his website with some superb photos of them). They might even have been nothing more remarkable than ordinary lions glimpsed at night, or during the day but with bright sunlight behind them.

Lion covered in black mud (Gerry van der Walt)

In 1975, at Glasgow (formerly Calder Park) Zoo in Scotland, a lion cub named Ranger was born with a black chest and one black leg. This was possibly an example of mozaicism – the development of fixed, irregular patches of pigment on an individual’s body – as these patches never expanded into other areas. Richard O’Grady, the zoo’s director, planned to breed Ranger when old enough with his mother, Kara, in the hope of producing an all-black specimen, but as I learnt from Richard, although such matings did occur on several occasions, no offspring resulted, even though Ranger and Kara were both in excellent health. Ranger was also mated with other lionesses, but always with the same non-result, suggesting that he may have been sterile. Ranger was euthanased in 1997.

Ranger as a cub with his mother Kara (Richard O'Grady/Zoological Society of Glasgow & West of Scotland)

Finally: Before leaving the subject of black lions, it should be explained that the so-called 'black lion' that Marco Polo claimed to have spied in Kollam, India, during his alleged travels in Asia was actually nothing more than a melanistic leopard!


UPDATE - 13 August 2012

An additional black lion item of particular interest has recently emerged. I've discovered that celebrated lion conservationist George Adamson's autobiography My Pride and Joy (1986) briefly notes that "an almost entirely black" lion was spied in Tanzania. Sadly, however, no additional details concerning this remarkable animal or the sighting's background were given.


UPDATE - 1 October 2012

A new black lion photograph has begun circulating online, but is it genuine? Check here to read my investigation of this latest image.


74 comments:

  1. it would be amazing if their were black lions

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    1. yeah! :D

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    2. i wish there were, would be awesome

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    3. I thought black lions really existed because the photo above reminds me of lion king

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    4. Yes they do exist in World of Warcraft !!!!!

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    5. They'd become the next rhino - poached to extinction

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  2. Great insight into a growing number of black lion posts on FB, I sent them all a link to this blog. Thanks again.

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  3. Great work tracing the photos back to the originals are you a detective?

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  4. you know genetics have a way of doing thing you cant imagen. I would love for a black lion to come out but i might not see it. you never now. I study genetics on equine and i seen thing people say is impossible come possible if its what the lord wonts it will come to pass.

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    1. You make no sense! You study "equine" LOL lady what you should be studying is GRAMMAR!!! WOW. No Black lions do not exist and they never will it is impossible.

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    2. well, if it's on the internet it must be true, LOL.

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    3. There is one mention about an entirely black Lion spotted in Tanzania in a book called My Pride and Joy, written by George Adamson in 1987. kelly michelle coughlin for your kind words. (there is a possiblity atleast for a black lion )

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    4. Yes, I mention George Adamson's book and black lion info from it in my 13 August 2012 update above.

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    5. genetic change in a species is due to environmental changes and change in food habits... or any logical reason of evolution. If a lion were to be black, that wud be because of the need of camouflaging with the envt. so that he can hunt without being noticed. THAT my friends is possible if the earth turns completely dark for ages and only then can a Lion turn black as a whole. Otherwise what u can see and using ur reasoning try to understand is a hoax... admit OR be fooled.

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    6. Its not impossible they could ginecticly engineer one

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  5. Man! I am disappointed. I showed the second one (PAulie-SVK creation) to my wife and she researched melanism and showed my kids all sorts of pictures of different species, including this lion. Gonna have to tell them about it. Theyre gonna be bummed.

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  6. Hi JoeJoe, Sorry that you were disappointed - it was a great-looking photo - but obviously the fakes have to be weeded out in order to prevent cryptozoology from losing credibility. In reality, that particular photo was fully identified by its creator on her website as an example of photomanipulation - what seems to have happened is that later, others circulated the photo and spread rumours or suppositions that it showed a real black lion. Never mind. Perhaps one day a real one will be found, and confirm the reports of such creatures that I noted earlier in my post here. Thanks for your comment, much appreciated! All the best, Karl

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  7. Snopes.com now have the following page for the second Lion photoge=raph: http://www.snopes.com/photos/animals/blacklion.asp

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  8. Interesting, but my ShukerNature blog post here revealed this 6 days before Snopes.com posted their finding, so mine is still a scoop! lol

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  9. Wonderful, wonderful wordless how nature and God's creations are beautiful, God bless you for showing this is very good and instructive, loved.
    Sonia Favret=^.^=

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  10. nice posting.. thanks for sharing.

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  11. thanks my friend........
    Till now i also cant heard about the black lion...
    and searching for reality...
    its not present on earth....

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  12. there is no black lion in the world
    is there ?
    reply me
    faizaali176@yahoo.com

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  13. I truly am disappointed at this :( I was sooooo excited hoping that a black lion was actually found! I love animals and I am very fascinated with new findings ESPECIALLY with big cats. Maybe 1 day such a majestic creature will pop up but until then I will continue to admire the other big cats of the world. :)

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  14. I have to say that the pic of the black lion is gorgeous, but I don't understand what a person gets out of posting a fake pic. I didn't believe it for a second.

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  15. As noted in my blog post, one of the black lion photos was produced merely as an exercise in photomanipulation and was clearly identified as such by its creator, but was subsequently spread acrsos the web (without her permission) by others, who claimed it to be a photo of a genuine black lion. The other photo's creator and reason for its creation, conversely, remain unknown to me at present.

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  16. I am currently reading Georg Adamsons book "My Pride and Joy". There in chapter 3 (page 54) he also write about an unproofed report about a almost black melanistic lion in Tanzania.
    As he wrote, I think a black lion would be a awsome sight, too. But I don't think that I will ever see one in real, even if I was very surprised to read about Rodger.

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  17. We all know if there was ever a beautiful creature like a Black Lion man has was a way of destroying such beautiful GODLY things. If its discovered in the wild I would hope that it would receive the utmost protection? Now we must worry about man trying to produce one himself? A beautiful and educating article. Thank you for shedding light on this HOAX!!! Save our BIG CATS PLEASE WORLD.......

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    1. Beautifully put, I couldn't agree more! :D

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  18. Great catch!If I could be a animal it would be a Lion in a world where they weren't hunted with mans weapons. I understand kill or be killed but for some of the reasons we've all heard in our past... To me they're and alway's will be King of the jungle.

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  19. Whenever I see something which appears unlikely, I look into it. My research brought me here. A pity your blog isn't monetized!

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  20. And then there was the famous white hummingbird, also of mysterious provenance...

    I wish more people would develop suspicion about photos that pop up without a photographer name or, if particularly interesting to science, no backstory. Granted, these can be faked, but something like this black lion photo is obviously dishonest, and I'm amazed at how many otherwise intelligent and sophisticated people are regularly taken in.

    Circulating (and helping circulate) hoaxes like this does several forms of damage. Most obviously, it's pirating. But it also causes a reduction in interest in genuine wildlife photos, hurting numerous legitimate photographers.

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  21. Thanx for sharing this valuable knowledge.

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  22. Possibilities? Well, it is possible to cross a male leopard with a female lion. Now, what if that leopard were a melanistic leopard?

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  23. Yes, it is indeed possible to cross a male leopard with a lioness, yielding hybrid cubs that are called leopons, which has happened in various zoos, notably in a Japanese one. However, no leopard x lioness mating has ever been confirmed in the wild state. Also, a black (melanistic) leopard is so because of possessing two copies of a mutant allele (gene form) known as non-agouti that is recessive. An offspring of a black leopard and normal lioness would only be black if the lioness possessed one copy of the same non-agouti mutant allele, and the cub received this from her and one of the father's copies. However, there is no evidence that the lion species possesses the non-agouti mutant allele at all. The nearest comparable case is one from a zoo in England when a black leopard mated with a tigress and produced a cub; however, it was normally coloured, not black, so clearly it had not received a non-agouti mutant allele from its tigress mother (assuming she had one, which again is very unlikely, as there are no confirmed all-black tigers on record either).

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  24. Guys .... Christ is also called the Lion of Judah...and I believe he intended the lion to look the way it is...I feel it is satanic to try a black lion (even if it is of genetical interest), as the bible also says satan is LIKE (imitating) a roaring lion ....

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  25. But But But But ..... The black lion just looks sooooooooooooo pretty );

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  26. But where is the proof that it's not the other way around?
    That the black lion is the original and that you just photoshopped the black lion to yellow to cover up that there is black lions? :)

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  27. LOL, because firstly: I've given the sources of the normal lion pictures, all of which existed long before the black ones. And secondly: if these black lions were real, especially the captive ones, they would be among the most famous animals on the planet, with queues around the block waiting to get in to see them! You don't have an animal as exotic and extraordinary on display as a black lion and not promote it!!

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  28. ^Well put Dr. Karl! Lol

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  29. I am impressed by your post. But I am much more impressed by the way you have so calmly replied all the queries and obligations over your post. Hats Off to you myan. You are just AMAZING.

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  30. Thanks very much! Glad you enjoyed my post.

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  31. it would be awsome if it were true....

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  32. Thanks so much for the info

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  33. A valuable post. But what if the black lion actually exist?

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  34. Thanks. Although there are as yet only unconfirmed reports (as documented here in this post of mine), it would not be impossible for one or more black lions to occur if the necessary mutant allele spontaneously occurred. However, what my post is primarily concerned with is that the purported photos of black lions examined here are fakes, not photos of genuine black lions.

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    1. I agree - why not? Although with a pitch (ha) toward hyper-melanism, could there be other mutations as well? (Speaking as an obvious amateur nature observer here)

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  35. Really enjoyed your forensic post! Not a black lion story but my father spoke of finding himself in the middle of pride of black maned lions at night. The male was enormous. Somewhere near Kabwe, Zambia in the late 1940's/early 1950's.

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  36. http://cdn.memegenerator.net/instances/400x/30825464.jpg

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  37. where is the last balck lion from

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  38. As noted in my article above, there are no confirmed specimens of black lions, only various unconfirmed sightings and reports as yet. All the best, Karl

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  39. Thanks Callum, Glad you liked it, and I bet your father was apprehensive, surrounded by a whole pride of lions at night! All the best, Karl

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  40. I don't think that a black lion would survive in the wild. It most likely would be killed by members of its own pride. Wild predators do not usually tolerate abnormalities in their midst. It would make it harder for them to hunt and track prey.

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    1. I totallly agree, this sort of thing has happened with other species,animal racism almost theres a thought,if u know what I mean?

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    2. I agee, totally with the above person as this has been proven to of happened with other species,shame,wot a spectacle it would be

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  41. Wow! Awesome work. Thank you Dr. Karl it was very enlightening. The moment I saw the picture on bbm I knew something was off, so I googled and found this. Great work :)

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  42. A very interesting post. Today only I saw this second picture of black lion on Facebook. Though it looked beautiful, I had a doubt 'cause I had never heard about any black lion! So I Googled, got here and found out it is actually photoshopped!

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  43. I looked into this some time last year. At the time it was mostly just the first pic in circulation (along with the rainbow owl), and I found it seemed to trace to a post by someone about a computer game they were working on IIRC. Their post was about how medieval storylines are often based in Europe and have much the same animals in them, his being set in America gave him a different pool of animals to play with, giving his own ficticious twist on them. Though the article didn't refer to lions, or explain the origin of the image, I think your first picture here was the first picture in their post too. Unfortunately I can't remember specifics about the person or what the name of their project was

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  44. ok so they are not real? it would be rlly cool if they did

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  45. weather or not they are real, proves nothing. Its not impossible for this to happen. Nothing is impossible with the way technology is today. A lion could have something geneticly wrong and could give birth to a black lion. To the people that say " itll never happen" Get over yourselves, how do we know that there isnt one already lerking out in the world somewhere? You cant watch every part of earth every second of every day. There is alot to be discovered for humans, maybe this is one of those things. How do we know they werent a time of the past? we simply just dont know. Let your mind think of all the possibilities that are out there:)

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  46. Black lions exsist in Ethiopia but it's only their mane that's black...
    http://www.tigraionline.com/ethiopian-black-mane-lion.jpg

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  47. well its all a matter of ambiguity that whether the black lions exist or not
    the above conversation is also somewhat ambigious that does not clarify te existence of black lions

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  48. Ferdinand Pereira21 August 2013 06:23

    Black lions in the wild wouldn't stand a chance due to their lack of camouflage. They would starve to death.

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  49. BLACK LIONS CERTAINLY EXIST!!!! NO I AM NO FOOL.. IT IS JUST AS THE BLACK SUN EXISTS. OUR SUN. WHEN WILL THE HEAVENLY CREATOR REVEAL BLACK LIONS AND THE BLACK SUN AGAIN; THIS IS THE QUESTION?

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  50. so are all Melsanistic animals fake? they cant be... its just like albinoism, right?

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  51. No, not all melanistic animals are fake. On the contrary, there are numerous fully-confirmed examples of melanistic animals on record, such as melanistic leopards (aka black panthers), melanistic birds of many different species, squirrels, zebras, deer, antelopes, snakes (e.g. black adders), lizards, fishes, insects (such as the famous carbonaria version of the peppered moth), etc. They are simply individuals possessing more than the normal amount of melanin for their respective species (just as albinos are individuals possessing less than the normal amount of melanin for their respective species). As yet, however, no confirmed specimens of melanistic lions have been discovered. That is not to say that no such lions could ever occur, it's just that none has been discovered so far. It is only those photos of so-called black lions examined here that have been shown to be fake.

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  52. Hi,im from Tanzania,,they are precious creatures...when i was about 5 years old my dad ,a noble farmer took us to close to a river to see him..there it was ,,a full colour black giant lion,,it was bigger than the normal lion also.
    Just sharing..thanks.

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  53. And i think my dad still has that pic he took from it ones before he took us to see it..he got a pic...

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  54. There is bad menkind taking nature pre iousness and selling it to annonimous rich entities for millions of dollars,,of course they dont want the people to know,,but i grew up in Tanzania,,and i am a witness..they are real.

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  55. I'd be interested in seeing your Dad's picture of the black lion.

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  56. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlkVBN9sskQ&feature=youtu.be

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    1. Sadly, this alleged black lion photo that you have included in your YouTube video is a fake, albeit a good one. Where did you find it? It has been created by Photoshop or some similar image-manipulation program, It appears to be a photo of a normal-coloured lion in which the lion portion of the image has been converted to monochrome (b/w) with some brown pigment then added to its mane and haunches to try and disguise the monochrome conversion and make its blackness look natural (but this ploy hasn't succeeded, as it still looks obviously monochrome rather than a natural melanistic animal). What conclusively exposes it as a hoax, however, is that if you enlarge the image and look carefully around the edges of the lion, you will see that a few strands of grass on which the lion is sitting that are directly in front of the lion have also been converted to monochrome instead of remaining green. Whoever produced this image either didn't spot these strands of grass or couldn't be bothered to painstakingly convert them into green, assuming (incorrectly) that no-one would spot them. I have Google-imaged the photo in case the original unmodified lion photo was online, but haven't found it as yet, thus suggesting that it may have been a private photo, never uploaded onto the Net, again in the hope that it would therefore not be revealed as a hoax. Sadly, however, a few strands of grass betrayed it. But thanks for bringing it to my attention - no doubt others will do so too, and I'll now be able to explain to them its true, fraudulent nature. All the best, Karl, Dr Karl Shuker

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