Black panther, leopardess on one frame after long wait: Lensman

Bengaluru (IANS) A Bengaluru-based wildlife photographer managed to capture a photograph of a rare leopard couple, a male black panther and a regular rosette spotted leopardess, in Karnataka’s Kabini forest, after long wait.

“I shot this panther couple photograph in Kabini forest, waiting six days for this glorious moment,” Mithun Hunugund, who also worked with National Geographic, said.

The photograph of the panthers has gone viral on social media across the country, mesmerising both wildlife enthusiasts and all others.

Though he released the photograph only a couple of days ago, Hunugund actually shot it in the winter of 2019, either in November or December.

In the image, both the panthers look to their right, directly into the lens, with the female panther in the front and the majestic black panther behind.

Though the disposition of both the big cats seemed calm but attentive, the black panther still seems fearful with its eyes burning bright from its pitch-black body.

Both the big cats stood amid scattered dry leaves covering the little grass. Their paws were not visible as they were sunk in dry leaves.

According to Hunugund, he was with his team when he managed the famous picture, for which he had been following the animal for six days.

“I have been visiting Kabini for the last 15 years and following big cats, leopards and tigers individually. This black panther has come into our lives since 2015,” said the 31-year-old photographer.

Following the appearance of the black panther five years ago, Hunugund said he has been following the journey of this black big cat and how it pairs up with females in the jungles of Kabini.

Fortunately, the photographer managed to click the black beast from his safari vehicle itself as nobody is allowed to deviate from the safari route or alight from the Forest Department vehicle.

“We have to be fortunate to see it,” said Hunugund about the rarity of the moment.

According to the photographer, the animals in Kabini are wild and free, and more scared of humans than those animals in a setting like Bengaluru Zoo.

He said the Kabini forest is a vast expanse, connected to three to four national parks spanning Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Kabini forest is located in Nagarhole Tiger Reserve (NGT), which stretches between Kodagu and Mysuru districts and was a protected reserve from the time of the Wodeyar dynasty, rulers of the erstwhile kingdom of Mysuru.

Nagarhole, which served as an exclusive hunting reserve of the Wodeyars, was made a wildlife sanctuary in 1955, covering an area of 284 square km – later stretched up to 643 square km.

It was upgraded to a national park in 1988 and was brought into the fold of Project Tiger after being declared a tiger reserve in 1999.

NGT has three sub-divisions, and eight ranges.

Some of the animals which thrive in the reserve include tigers, panthers, wild dogs, elephants, bisons, sambar, spotted deer, barking deer, sloth bears, wild boars, common langurs, bonnet macaque and a variety of reptiles and birds.

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