On May 6, 2020, the chief minister of Goa, Pramod Sawant, posted the photo of the jet-black wildcat on Twitter. His caption read, “A great glimpse of Goa’s rich wildlife. Black panther camera-trapped at Patiem Beat of Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary.”
Forest department officials are attempting to find out whether the panther was a lone wanderer or is indicative of a greater population of panthers living within the sanctuary. According to the Hindustan Times, a forest department official stated that although the area is a known habitat of tigers, this was the first time a black panther had been captured on camera in Goa’s Netravali Sanctuary.
This rare black panther picture was taken at Goa's sanctuary.😍😮
The photo of the majestic wildcat quickly went viral, with many Twitter users likening the panther to “Bagheera,” a fictional character from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book and later from Disney’s animated movie of the same name.
Other Twitter users simply celebrated the rare sighting of the black panther in the southern Indian state. “Good numbers of black panthers are getting spotted recently, very good sign for our beautiful wildlife,” wrote one social media user.
“All the more reason to not restart mining,” wrote another. “Goa is blessed with rich biodiversity, let’s try and preserve this for future generations!”
“Baloo, birds of a feather should flock together. You wouldn't marry a panther now, would you?” – Bagheera
Environmentalist Rajendra Kerkar, speaking to the Times of India, explained that the rare panther sighting may be due to the sanctuary’s proximity to the Kali Tiger Reserve in Karnataka, which protects other large cat species including tigers and leopards.
“Black panthers—melanistic leopards—are residents of the Netravali-Mhadei area,” Kerkar explained, “but more on the Karnataka and Maharashtra side. The sighting could also be because of reduced interference from humans of late.”
A video believed to feature the elusive black panther was also shared on May 6. This time, the footage depicted the black panther sitting in a tree in its natural habitat.
Indian Forest Officer Parveen Kaswan shared the video on Twitter, captioned, “You remember that #Bagheera from Jungle Book? Here it is. Found from Kabini to Darjeeling in #India,” Kaswan continued. “Beauty captured by Harsha Narasimhamurthy.”
The very first black panther sighting in Goa’s Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary dates back to 2004. “People often mistake it for a new species,” an official from the forest department told Times of India; “a panther is a leopard with more melanin content in its fur.”
“Conservation of the big cat population is only possible when we protect the green cover and the herbivore prey population,” he continued. “Man-animal conflicts have occurred, because the prey come very close to habitation and the predators then follow.”
The sharing of the now-viral black panther picture of May 6, the official reflected, is a testament to the forest department’s success in managing wildlife conservation areas and encouraging big cats to populate the protected habitat.
According to the Financial Express, owing to India’s nationwide lockdown restrictions, due to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, there have been numerous reports of wildlife being spotted in places they have never been seen before. Most notably, incongruous wildlife has been spotted in cities and on deserted highways.
Nilgai or “blue bulls,” the largest Asian antelope, have been seen on roads within the New Okhla Industrial Development Authority in Uttar Pradesh, a state in northern India. Additionally, reports state that elephants have been seen wandering through empty markets in Kerala, and birds have returned to urban areas in the absence of human activity.
Many are hoping that the sighting of the elusive black panther in Goa’s Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary indicates that this magnificent creature, among others, is staking its claim to a patch of protected habitat in southern India for good.