It was a very rare moment for nature lovers in Odisha after a black panther was spotted in the state’s Hemgir Forest Range under Sundargarh Forest Division. This is the first time that the rare animal was caught on camera installed in the forests. The black panther, or melanistic leopard as it is called, was caught on camera while roaming in the forest. The camera trap was installed at the Garjanpahad Reserve Forest under Hemgir in Sundargarh Forest Division, and the footage was captured a week ago, Odisha’s Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) Wildlife Sandeep Tripathi was quoted as saying by PTI.
The presence of black panther earns Odisha the distinction of being the only state in the country to have melanistic tigers, white tigers and now black panthers.
As per reports, the cameras also caught the black panther’s mother. The mother is a normal leopard and her son is melanistic. Melanistic is derived from the term ‘melanism’ which is the undue development of dark-coloured pigment resulting in black skin in many animals and birds. Odisha is the ninth state where a black panther has been reported. Melanistic leopards or black panthers are also found in other states like Kerala, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Odisha reported 318 leopards in its forests in its last wildlife census carried out in 2016.
Twenty years ago, black panthers were reportedly spotted in Phulbani and Simlipal forests of the state, but there was no evidence in the absence of camera traps then. They were only installed in the forest in 2015 following information about the animal by locals and forest dwellers to the forest department, the officer said.
It is a remotely activated camera that is equipped with a motion sensor or an infrared sensor, or uses a light beam as a trigger to capture wild animals on film when researchers are not present. Melanistic tigers have thick and darker stripes and are rarely found globally in the wild or in the zoo. The melanistic tiger was first reported in Similipal forest in 1993. The first photographic evidence about its presence was captured in 2007.