“I couldn't believe my eyes. I quickly captured the moment and left the spot without disturbing them,” raves wildlife photographer Das Chandrasekhar, who captured the rare scene of a black panther and a leopard together in Kotagiri taluk in the Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu. According to forest officials, black panthers are rarely spotted in forest areas, and that too, in pairs.
While many thought the big cats were spotted together in a forest area, Chandrasekhar says he spotted them in a tea plantation. “Last week, a Kotagiri native told me about the presence of a black panther and a leopard. Without second thoughts, I reached the spot. Around 4 pm, I spotted the pair resting on a rock inside a private tea plantation near the Nilgiri forest,” he told TNM.
For the Kotagiri native, who worked with an NGO, it was a dream-come-true moment. “I have been waiting for the right moment for the last three years. Earlier, I have clicked photographs of tigers, leopards, bears and other wild animals. But, it was the first time capturing the picture of a black panther pair, as they are rarely spotted in forest areas, and it is especially difficult to get a picture of the pairs,” says the 31-year-old photographer.
Black Panthers are leopards
Black Panthers are born from leopards and they are not two different animals, says PM Prabhu, the assistant warden at Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary in Idukki. “A black panther is born with genetic issues. If closely observed, one can find the spots, like those of leopards, on the black panther as well. But they are not visible due to lack of melanin content,” he elucidates.
Black panthers is the melanistic colour variant of any big cat species. In Asia and Africa, they are leopards and in America, they are jaguars, cougars or bobcats.
Prabhu adds that the Kerala forest department, on numerous occasions, has managed to photograph black panthers using night vision cameras in the forest. “In the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve in Palakkad district, we managed to get a picture of a leopard, which was a hybrid between black panther and leopard,” he said.