After Odisha, tourists spot black panther in Maharashtra’s Tadoba Reserve
A black panther was spotted by tourists at the Shivanjhari area of Kolsa range in Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve in Chandrapur district on Tuesday.
Forest officials confirmed that the animal was a black panther as their camera traps caught images of it, half an hour later.
The forest department, however called the big cat a black leopard, around 4 to 5 years old, and confirmed that the sighting was so rare that this might be the only evidence of a black panther in Maharashtra.
In December 2013, the forest department and villagers of Oni in Rajapur taluka of Ratnagiri district rescued a full-grown black leopard from a 40-foot deep well, which is the last sighting of the animal. “The sighting in Tadoba is really interesting as these black panthers are known to frequent more rainforests and areas receiving lot of rain in India, but spotting it here is definitely a surprise,” said Vidya Athreya, wildlife biologist.
TATR (core) deputy director Dr Kishore Mankar said they spotted a black panther cub last in 2014. “Most likely this is the same cub, which was spotted on Tuesday. Around 5.15pm, almost 10.5km inside TATR, the tiger safari comprising of Praful Yerme (driver), Shalik Yerme (guide), Jean Francois Aernouts, his wife Lina, and kids Zia and Ruby, and Belgian national Juliet Decaestecker, spotted the black leopard,” he said, adding, “Our camera traps caught the animal around 6.08pm in the same area.”
He said that in Asia and Africa, black panthers are called leopards (Panthera pardus), and in the America, they are called black jaguars (Panthera onca).
“Like leopards, these animals also have stripes, but they are hardly visible on their black fur due to the presence of melanin or melanistic colour. The genes responsible for melanin formation are different from those of the commonly seen leopards, and these recessive genes give them the black colour,” said Mankar.
Experts said the sighting was surely a spectacle. “These are melanistic leopard and they are not common anywhere in India. They have extremely low population as these genetic aberrations are extremely rare,” said VB Mathur, director, Wildlife Institute of India. “While we should rejoice such a documentation, conservation efforts need to be focussed on protecting all leopards, as the number of deaths are on the rise.”