Safari-Goer Spots Incredibly Rare Melanistic Serval Wildcat, and the Photos Are Amazing

May 29, 2021 Updated: May 29, 2021

One of the world’s most elusive species of wildcat with a rare genetic trait has been snapped by a lucky photographer at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Brahmanand Kori, 21, was able to photograph the melanistic serval while visiting Amboseli National Park in Kenya earlier this month.

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A wild serval with a rare genetic trait is shown with Mount Kilimanjaro in the background. (Caters News)
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The black serval walked onto a road, presenting Kori with a perfect photo opportunity. (Caters News)

Melanism is a trait in animals characterized by an excess of the dark pigment melanin which causes animals’ fur and skin to appear darker.

The photographer captured incredible moments of his encounter with the serval—including the wildcat gingerly crossing through the grass with the snowy peaks of the dormant volcano as a backdrop; and a shot of the serval peaking through the grass, directly at the camera lens, despite their usual shyness.

It is extremely rare to encounter serval cats in the wild due to their small size and ability to blend into their habitat.

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The rare wildcat looked into the camera as Kori snapped photos. (Caters News)
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The serval eventually returned into the tall grass. (Caters News)

For Kori to have captured on camera one of the wildcats with the dark melanistic trait is all the more incredible, as there’s only a 25 percent chance that a serval might inherit the trait from parents that both carry the recessive gene.

The wildlife photographer’s hands even started to shake with excitement when he first saw the serval in the park, hardly believing his luck after his sister—whom he was traveling with—spotted a pair of tiny black ears.

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The photographer called the moment “a scene I’ll never forget.” (Caters News)

“In a few minutes she came out and was walking towards the road,” Kori said. “It was the perfect opportunity to get a clear shot. The serval then went on to the other side of the road.

“After following her for some more time she gave us a clear view of her in the open and even looked straight at my lens. All that time we spent with the serval was in the presence of the mighty Mount Kilimanjaro in the backdrop.

“Finally, the serval started walking to the left of us and behind her was the mighty Kilimanjaro. It’s a scene I’ll never forget.”

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The melanistic serval peers at the camera through the tall grass. (Caters News)
Epoch Times Photo
Kori said he feels “lucky and blessed” to have been able to photograph the very rare cat. (Caters News)

Eventually, the beautiful serval returned to the tall grass, popping its head up at times, then looking at the photographer’s lens one last time before departing for good.

It was an incredible experience for Kori, who at one point got as close as 30 feet (10 meters) to the serval and got to spend 20 minutes documenting the wonderful moment.

When asked how he felt afterwards, Kori said: “I always want to experience a new challenge. I’d never imagined that I’d get a chance to photograph one of the rarest cats in the world. The most incredible element of a safari is ‘luck.’

“I feel incredibly lucky and blessed after I got to see and photograph this very rare cat.”

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