A wildlife photographer has captured remarkable images of a female leopard shadowed by her black panther partner in India.
Rare footage shows Saaya, a 120 lbs male leopard, standing in the shadow of his 89 lbs leopard mate, Cleopatra.
Saaya is eight years old, while spotted Cleopatra is 12 years old. Leopard parents have been mating for 4 years and have an 8-month-old cub.
‘This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; I can close my eyes and relive seeing them over again,’ said photographer Mithun Hunugund, 32, from India. “I’ve been waiting for these pictures for six days,”
“I’ve placed myself near a source of water in their hu.nting land. He added. ‘They light up the forest. To be able to see that was absolutely amazing.”
Black panthers are melanistic. Their colour variation is caused by the recessive allele, which means that a child does not share the same colour as his father.
About 11% of leopards have unique pigmentation, making them a rare sight.
Black panthers have melanosis, which causes their coat and skin colour. This phenomenon can occur in some species, including the genus ‘Panthera’, which includes the leopards, and the larger member of the Panthera family – the jaguars.
Pictured above: Saaya drinks water from a spring. The Indian leopards are listed as vulnerable to habitat loss and poa.ching. Between 12,000 and 14,000 are believed to live in India. Pictured below: 12-year-old Queen Cleopatra viewed from a tree vantage point.