Rare black panther spotted in Maharashtra’s tiger reserve

A black panther was spotted in Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve on Tuesday by Belgian trade commissioner Jean-Francois Aernouts and his family—courtesy Times of India
A black panther was spotted in Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve on Tuesday by Belgian trade commissioner Jean-Francois Aernouts and his family—courtesy Times of India

The Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) in India has called for an intensive search for black panthers after one was recorded by a Belgian diplomat and his family at Shivanzari in Kolsa range of the reserve on Tuesday (22 May 2018).

“It is something unique as black panthers are melanistic and are generally found in evergreen forests like Western Ghats and Dandeli-Anshi in the state of Karnatak, but its record in Tadoba, which is a dry deciduous forests, needs attention,” said Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) scientist Bilal Habib.

Belgian trade commissioner Jean-Francois Aernouts, who sighted the Black Panther, said he initially mistook it to be a civet cat. “Naturalist Swarna Chakrabarty saw it with his binoculars and signalled to click pictures quickly. My wife Juliet managed to click two pictures,” he told TOI on Wednesday. The direct sighting took place at a waterhole in Kolsa range. “There was so much emotion involved that my daughters could not stop saying that they ended up sighting all ‘Jungle Book’ characters — Mowgli, Sherkhan, Baloo and Bagheera (black panther). We looked for Mowgli in the playful kids in the surrounding villages,” said Aernouts. After diplomat family sighted the black cat, TATR field director Mukul Trivedi confirmed that the carnivore was recorded on its camera traps at 6.08pm at the same spot.

ALL ABOUT BLACK PANTHER

* Black panther in Asia and Africa is actually the black leopard (Panthera pardus), and the one in the US is black jaguar (Panthera onca)

* A black panther is the same species as a normal-colored panther with a high amount of pigment (melanin) causing the animal to appear to be black. Melanism occurs because of a recessive gene mutation.

* The condition is caused by agouti gene which regulates distribution of black pigment within the hair shaft.

* A closer look at a panther’s coat will reveal the characteristic spots of the leopard and jaguar, hiding under a cloak of excess melanin in what is called ‘ghost striping’.

* Black panthers are found in India’s states like Kerala, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Odisha.

* Melanism is hereditary but is not necessarily passed on directly to the next generation. A black panther cub may be born even if both parents are normal coloured.

* A normal-colored leopard can carry the recessive melanistic gene. Often, a black leopard cub is born along with fair-colored cubs. If both parents are black, the leopard cubs are always black. (Times of India)

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