By Jamie Smith
This stunned snapper’s dream came true when he finally captured once-in-a-lifetime pictures of an elusive black panther – after searching for the big cat dozens of times over three years.
Taken in the Kabani woods in Nagarhole National Park in Karnataka, India, by 35-year-old Amal George, these images show an incredibly rare black panther traversing one of India’s best-known tiger reserves.
Amal first heard about the panther in 2014 when the big cat was spotted by a naturalist who worked in the jungle lodges – and after taking up wildlife photography in 2016 he decided to visit the park twice a month to attempt to picture it.
While visiting the national park again in 2016, he drove through the panther’s territory – spotting the majestic animal in the canopies above the track they were following but was unhappy with the quality of his photograph.
Finally, earlier this year [FEB] Amal was perfectly primed to shoot these stunning images of the seven-year-old panther staring straight at the camera among leafy foliage as it prowls through the jungle’s trees.
Amal, from Bangalore, India, said: “This rare black panther had been famous in the area for a number of years – but his origin continues to remain an enigma.
“Having seen a couple of photos of this dark ghost taken by few photographers, I had always hoped to capture him through my lens.
“However, this elusive panther always remained beyond my area of coverage.
“During a visit to Nagarhole in 2016 our driver was driving us through safari tracks when we were welcomed by a herd of elephants.
“The matriarch elephant charged at us, hence why we took a different route – which landed us in the panther’s territory.
“Suddenly, I saw the ‘black gold’ resting on his favourite tree top.
“Ever since that prima black panther’s sighting of mine, I was lucky to spot and photograph him umpteen times – and have taken many pictures of him over a span of two years.”
Conservationist Amal now visits the area frequently, capturing the panther whenever he sees him.
The photographs he took earlier this year remain some of his favourites of ‘Blacky’ taken to date.
He added: “When I visited Karnataka this February, I was lucky to see his mate and two cubs.
“The cubs are normal leopards and I wish them god speed, as Karnataka is home to other leopards and tigers and they will face a struggle in the survival of the fittest.
“As a photographer, I still have a dream shot of Blacky walking towards me on a safari track, head on.
“This dream haunts me and is my motivation for my recurrent visits to Kabini.”