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Camera Trap Study on Melanistic Leopard Population in Kali Tiger Reserve

Updated: Nov 17, 2020

Indian Forester, 142 (10) : 923-927, 2016

ISSN No. 0019-4816 (Print)

ISSN No. 2321-094X (Online)

- By Srinivasulu. I.F.S.


Animal monitoring is the key tool in the hands of park managers to effectively manage the forests and wildlife. Advances in the field of Wildlife science provide scope in this regard. Elusive Melanistic leopards or Black Panthers are more commonly found in the Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve (Now renamed as Kali Tiger Reserve) as compared to other protected areas of Karnataka. Camera trap survey was conducted in the forest ranges of Kulgi, Phansoli, Gund and Anshi during January to June 2015. In this study an effort has been made to estimate the percentage of melanistic individuals in total leopard population. 94 pairs of Camera traps were placed covering 763 Km2 area for 49 days in two blocks. Based on the image data the percentage of Melanistic animals in total leopard population has been derived.

Key words: Camera trap survey, Protected areas, Melanistic leopards, Sightings, Encounters.


Kali tiger reserve is located in Western Ghats of Karnataka in Uttar Kannada district. The tiger reserve comprises of two important protected areas of the region viz., Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary and Anshi National Park covering an area of 1345 Km2 (Map 1) Both protected areas are contiguous to each other and are a home for large carnivores like Tigers (Panthera tigris), Leopards (Panthera pardus), Dhole (Cuon alpinus) and Sloth Bears (Melursus ursinus) and others. Leopards have highest distribution among all wild cats found. They show a great diversity in coat colour and rosette patterns. Individual Leopards can be distinctly identified based on their rosette pattern. Melanistic leopard commonly called Black Panther is found in these forests. Melanism is more common in denser and humid forests as compared to dry forests. It provides additional advantage of being camouflaged with darker environment. Melanism is a development of dark-coloured pigment "melanin" in the skin or its appendages and is the opposite of albinism. It is inherited as single recessive gene trait relative to its spotted form. The degree of melanism also varies between different melanistic individuals from jet black colour to light black where rosettes are also visible. The camera trap survey conducted to monitor large mammals inside the tiger reserve has showed the presence of both forms of leopards. Melanistic forms cannot be distinguished individually and hence based on photographs the percentage of melanistic forms as against total leopard population is calculated. Since normal leopards could be individually identified and their density can be calculated using different statistical methods melanistic leopard densities could also be derived relatively.

The present study, using modern tools of Camera Trapping, revealed statistical and quantitative estimation of melanism as 14 % of total leopard encounters in the study area.

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