In a fascinating post, Dr. Karl Shuker, zoologist, tracks down the origin of some dubious black lion photos circulating online and reveals photo hoaxes, mistakes and hopeful attempts. True black lions are probably just a fantasy.
In recent weeks, two very stunning black lion photographs have been circulating online. […] 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.[M]edia 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…
Dr. Shuker had researched sightings of black lions for his book 1989 Mystery Cats of the World. There were sparse reports and no sightings had been confirmed. It’s not impossible that lions might show this trait but it would be incredibly anomalous based on historical observations of lion populations. It is far more likely that the alleged reports are not what they appear to be.
This story is also a good reminder that photos(and videos) are simply not adequate evidence for anomalies. Ever since photography was invented, people have found a way to produce fake images. It would be foolish for anyone to consider images as proof of the unlikely or the paranormal. Only converging lines of evidence can point the way.