Photographer Captures Rare Photo Of Leopard And A Black Panther Forming Its 'Shadow'

Photographer Captures Rare Photo Of Leopard And A Black Panther Forming Its 'Shadow'

Taken by wildlife photographer Mithun H, the image is titled ‘The Eternal Couple' and features Saaya and Cleopatra.

Cover Image Credits: Instagram/ MithinHPhotography

For the past few weeks, the images of a black panther roaming alone in the forest of Kabini, India has been making rounds on social media. After the images went viral, a lot of people have compared the black panther with Bagheera from The Jungle Book. But as it turns out, the black panther Saaya has a mate. Another remarkable picture of the big cat has surfaced and he is seen walking alongside a leopard, reported This Is Colossal.


The photographer Mithun H reportedly captured the image at the Kabini Forest Reserve during the winter season last year. The picture shows Saaya standing right behind a leopard. It is captured in such a manner that it creates an impression that the leopard is casting a shadow behind. On his Instagram, the photographer captioned the picture as ‘The Eternal Couple’, and it features Saaya, the Black Panther and Cleopatra, the Leopardess.


Mithun H also noted that the couple has been together for four years and has an atypical relationship for the species. He wrote, "Saaya and Cleopatra have been courting since 4 years now and whenever they are together it’s a sight to behold. The forest comes alive as they trot nonchalantly in his fabled kingdom. Usually, in the courting pairs, generally it is the male who takes charge and moves around with the female following close behind. But with this couple it was definitely Cleo who was in charge while the panther followed.”


In a conversation with The New Indian Express, the famed photographer said, "I had to wait for six days for this in the same spot since I could hear the Panther and Cleopatra mating about a 100 metres away in the thick undergrowth but could not see them due to limited visibility. They had made a large kill and would not move until it was over. That is where the knowledge and years of experience of following and tracking the Panther came in handy. I just had to wait at one of his favorite paths since that was the place he would get her since that was the edge of his territory, and this he did after 6 days."


But it was definitely worth the wait and Mithun H said he was ready to wait six more years to capture a moment like this. He is famous for tracking big cats and is known for working on ‘The Real Black Panther’ for Nat Geo Wild. He also pointed out that Cleopatra has been in the reserve since 2009 while Saaya arrived in 2014. The two began courting in 2016 when Saaya finally managed to assert his dominance. Mithun has been following the two ever since. 


While the image definitely went viral, the young photographer was not anticipating the controversy that followed. It was shared by Dr Prayag H.S (@prayaghs) on Twitter where he captioned the photo, writing, "At Kabini Reservoir”. However, he didn't give any credit to the photographer. Mithun H commented on the thread saying the photographer should have been credited and a debate ensued. At the end of it all, the photographer was duly credited. 



Speaking about the controversy, the 31-year-old photographer said, "My job as the creator and copyright holder of the image was to inform him of the details. I do not want to talk about what happened after, but I can say I finally got credit at the end of it after much discussion. So, no hard feelings.” Reminiscing about his incredible photograph, he concluded, saying, "It was their gaze looking directly at the camera. I got them on camera quite a few times earlier when they would be together once a year for mating. But this recent one was special because of that perfect moment when they both turned together without a care in the world and the fact that so much patience and work had gone behind that image." 





In the last few months, there has been a lot of talks about the lone black panther of Kabini, and the photographer hopes that his efforts will help in the conversation of the species. He added, "The more knowledgeable the people are, the more the limelight, the better the conservation efforts. Much like in the case of tiger conservation in our country. Moreover, the Karnataka Forest department is doing a wonderful job for the protection of this species and other wildlife in general. They are one of the best when it comes to that. So, the wildlife is in safe hands." 


While talking about the challenges he faced during capturing the wild, the photographer quipped, "It is definitely challenging for sure but unlike most other forms of photography it has the element of surprise. You never know what you are going to encounter at the next bend. The woods are mysterious and unlock my passion. You could be waiting for days and months and years for that perfect shot. But when it happens, those few seconds are magical and to live for after all that time. That is the beauty of wildlife photography."

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