BHUBANESWAR: Odisha has reported sighting of the black panther for the first time in its forests.
The photographic evidence came in from Hemgir Forest Range under Sundargarh Forest Division. Pictures of the black panther, or melanistic leopard as it is called, were captured repeatedly by camera traps installed in Garjanpahad Reserve Forest under Hemgir in Sundargarh Forest Division, Odisha’s Chief Wildlife Warden Dr Sandeep Tripathi told this paper.
Black Panther is a color variant of the Indian leopard. Although it was reportedly spotted 26 years ago in the region,no scientific or pictorial records were found to establish the claim.
It took three years to gather evidence because camera traps have been deployed in Hemgir since 2015 under the guidance of Divisional Forest Officer of Sundargarh Arun Kumar Mishra with assistance from
two researchers Bhakta Rath and Nimain Palei from the Chief Wildlife Warden’s office.
Garjanpahad, where the first footage of black panther was captured, spreads across Hemgir and Gopalpur forest ranges covering a combined area of 10,000 hectare. It is connected to the Central India tiger landscape.
The melanistic leopard coat varies in colour and the jet black form is called “black panther”. It is as shy as any normal leopard and very difficult to detect. It is mostly found in densely forested areas of southern India and was recently sighted in Udanti-Sitanadi Tiger Reserve of Chhattisgarh last month.
Melanistic leopard are reported from tiger habitats in eight States including Periyar Tiger Reserve, Bhadra Tiger Reserve, Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve, Kabini Wildlife Sanctuary, Achanakmar Tiger Reserve, Satara, Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary, Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, Dibrugarh, Kaziranga National Park, Manas National Park and Pakke Tiger Reserve.
Odisha is the ninth State where the black panther has been reported, Chief Wildlife Warden Dr Tripathi informed. “After melanistic tiger, we have now added another record to our research by capturing the first photograph of wild black panther in Sundargarh,” he said.
Odisha which boasts of is variety of flora and fauna is, incidentally, the only state to have melanistic tigers both in the wild and in captivity. Melanstic tiger was first reported in 1993 in Similipal Tiger Reserve and later, a carcass was found in the same year. The first photographic evidence to supplement presence of melanistic tiger in Similipal was captured in 2007.
In Nandankanan Zoological Park of Bhubaneswar, three melanstic tigers were available born in captivity apart from its regular stock of 15 normal-colour and seven white tigers.