Melanistic (Black) Panther, Bhadra Tiger Reserve

Reghu Neelakantan

Bhadra Tiger Reserve is seeing a few melanistic (Black) Panther sightings. Just yesterday (20th Feb 2012), tourists in the backwaters of the Bhadra reservoir saw this panther from a boat at 8am. There has been a couple of earlier sightings too. Researchers at the Centre for Wildlife Studies (CWS) report of a melanistic leopard in a camera-trap capture from Bhadra in February 2009.

A black leopard is the same species as a normal-colored leopard with a high amount of pigment (melanin) causing the animal to be very dark or black.  Melanism occurs because of a recessive gene mutation of the leopard. Melanism is hereditary but is not necessarily passed directly from one generation to the next. A black leopard cub will be born with both parents carrying the melanistic gene. A fair-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.

Melanistic leopards are more commonly found in dense tropical rain forest of South and Southeast Asia. Here it is thought that the dark coloration acts as better camouflage in where the dark coloration gives them better camouflage in the low sunlight conditions of the forest floor.

Please report such interesting wildlife sightings to (info<at>conservationindia<dot>org). Thanks!

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