An Indian photographer Anurag Gawande recently photographed the very rare black leopard in the Tadoba National Park as it was hunting for a deer.
Black leopard, also called the melanistic leopard, is very rare and there is a handful of them left all around the world. The cats are highly coveted by poachers for their black coats. India, also called the land of tigers, has been home to melanistic leopards for a while now but due to the high poaching percentage in the area, the leopards have not been spotted for years. Only recently, Wildlife photographer Anurag Gawande came across the melanistic leopard while on a safari at the Tadoba National Park in western Maharashtra state in January. This particular male leopard is the rarest of its kind with its black spots distinctly visible on his shiny coat.
In the picture, the leopard sharply contrasted against the clay-red ground it was walking over. According to the photographer, this is the only melanistic leopard of the kind in the wild park. The 24-year-old photographer was just 30 feet away from the leopard when he spotted it, adding that it had been hunting a deer when his safari group came across the rare cat.
The color variation in these wild cats is caused by a recessive allele which means that due to this, a child does not share the father’s coloration. Around 11 percent of leopards have unique pigmentation, making them a very rare sight. The black pigmentation can occur in a number of species, including the 'Panthera' genus, which includes leopards and the larger member of the Panthera family - jaguars. Indian leopards are listed as a vulnerable species following habitat loss and poaching. Between 12,000 and 14,000 are believed to live in India.
“It was surprising because we thought we will see a tiger but we saw black leopard strolling on the pathway. I felt the same thrill while watching it but this time I was aware of its moment. We kept our vehicle off and kept enough distance so that it will not move from the spot. This was my second time that I was watching it.”
The photographer had previously spotted the rare leopard a year ago but said was equally thrilled to have seen it again.
He further revealed,
“We were tracking a tiger but on the way on Tadoba lake we heard a deer call and at the next moment we saw Black leopard. It was sitting on the pathway. 'Then he saw a deer and then he tried to hunt that deer but he failed. Then again it came back on road and sat there for 15-20 minutes and we got some amazing shot of the majestic animal. It is the only black leopard of Tadoba national park.”
Article and image source: Daily mail