In a jaw-dropping encounter, an Indian photographer caught on camera an extremely rare black leopard from just 30 feet away.
Wildlife photographer Anurag Gawande captured the dark-colored leopard, or melanistic leopard, while on a safari at Tadoba National Park in western Maharashtra state in January.
While melanistic leopards are already rare because of their black coats, this majestic male is even rarer, because its spots are so distinctively visible across its glistening satiny coat. It is the only such cat in the park, according to Gawande.
In the footage, the gorgeous wild cat can be seen crossing a dirt road and staring straight at the camera as Gawande films from a distance.
The 24-year-old photographer says he was just 30 feet (9 meters) away from the leopard when he spotted it.
“It was surprising because we thought we will see a tiger but we saw [a] black leopard strolling on the pathway!” Gawande said.
The photographer had previously spotted the rare leopard a year ago but adds he is equally thrilled to have seen it again.
“This was my second time that I was watching it,” he said. “I felt the same thrill while watching it but this time I was aware of its movement. We kept our vehicle off and kept enough distance so that it will not move from the spot.”
The leopard had been hunting a deer in the park when the photographer spotted it.
Gawande said they had been tracking a tiger when they heard a deer call. The next moment, the black leopard appeared. “It was sitting on the pathway,” Gawande said. “Then he saw a deer and then he tried to hunt that deer but he failed.”
Then, the leopard returned to the road, where it sat for 15 to 20 minutes, according to Gawande, who added, “and we got some amazing shot of the majestic animal.
“It is the only black leopard of Tadoba National Park.”