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Are Lion Tailed Macaque More Fortunate than Panna Tigers: A Tale of Two Projects

Almost a  year after the Karnataka high court stayed the project that had further threatened the already endangered lion tailed macaque (LTM) ((Macaca silenus), endemic to the Sharavathi river valley nestled in the Western Ghats; the sword of Damocles continues to hang over the primates. The Karnataka Power Corporation Limited (KPCL) had launched a geothermal survey  with heavy machines to ascertain if the 2000 MW underground pump storage hydro-electric project was feasible. Besides LTM, the Sharavathi river valley is also home to a diverse array of species and sustains very rich biodiversity. Though the  court stay continues, the south Indian state has not yet withdrawn the project. For the time being, the power project may not have been in the priority list of the government after the change in the political guard, it continues to stare at LTM menacingly. Sharavathi Valley, a Jewel in the Western Ghats The project was proposed within the core area of 902 sq km in the Sharavathi Valle

Return of ‘Bagheera’ in the Mowgli land of Pench


In the Mowgli land of Central India’s Pench tiger reserve, ‘ Bagheera’  has returned. And this black leopard is attracting the attention of a large number of wildlife tourists. So far only a few lucky people have got a chance to see some glimpses of this elusive big cat, mostly wandering around the buffer zone of the jungle and also often visiting the core area. Despite the presence of  the star big -cats like Collarwalli, Patdev or L-Mark, there is a lot of buzz  in the park about ‘ Bagheera‘ too.

Kipling Immortalises Black Panther

Rudyard Kipling immortalized the black panther  –Bagheera. As a child Kipling lived in India and most of his stories are set in the country, though it is not entirely clear in exactly which part of the country.  The jungles that claim to be associated with Kipling stories include Pench National Park located near the district of Seoni. 

Also read: Like Her Mother in Pench, Patdev Tigress delivers 5 cubs

The park is also popularly known as Mowgli land and the entire region is called Kipling country.  Also called as the ghost of the jungle, black panthers are a smart, stealth-like attacker, its dark coat helps it hide and stalk prey very easily, especially at night. In mid –June,  the ‘Bagheera’ in Pench was sighted for the longest duration when it hunted a deer and ate lazily.

Melanistic Black Leopard is Rare

Black leopards are extremely rare creatures. The one found in  Pench  was first spotted sometime in mid 2020  when the country was facing a lockdown.  It was like a saya, a shadow, a forest guard reminisces. “For a moment it was here and then disappeared in the woods”, he said.  In the eerie jungle  silence , he looked for the cat again but it did not return. Even otherwise, the leopards are elusive.  Spotting the black variant of this cat  in the dark jungle is even  more difficult. A black panther is the melanistic colour variant of the leopard (Panthera pardus) and the jaguar (Panthera onca).It is  not a subspecies but a melanistic breed of   Jaguars and Leopards. In Latin American, they are black Jaguars while in Asia and Africa, they are black leopards. Black panthers have excess black pigments. Though their typical rosettes are also present , they  are not visible prominently.

Also read: Leopards Need Tiger-Like Protection Programmes in India

They have been found mostly in tropical forests in Kenya, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia and Java, and black jaguars in Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica and Paraguay. Melanism is caused by a recessive allele, one of  the two or more possible forms of a gene that are found at the same place on a chromosome, in the leopard. In a way , they are opposite of the while tigers. A recessive gene inherited from both parents is the cause of the white coloration. Roughly 1 out of 10,000 tigers are born with this rare genetic mutation, called leucism which causes the tiger to lose pigmentation in its fur. Similarly, there are white deer and white bear (not polar bears) also spotted, though rarely, in Indian jungles .As Indian wildlife research work is tiger driven, leopards are neglected. “Despite their widespread distribution, leopard habitats are being increasingly fragmented. This has resulted in leopards venturing out into human- dominated landscapes and ending up in conflicts”, a government report said.

Images :Sachin Kinjal Wildlife.Sourced by: Vikram Singh Parihar , director Pench tiger reserve

Comments

  1. What a disperate creatures in Indian jungle..
    Thanks to mother Earth....

    ReplyDelete

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