These are some truly one-of-a-kind spots.
Black leopards are a rarity, and black leopards with visible spots are rarer still. So when 24-year-old photographer Anurag Gawande saw one such beautiful creature during a safari at India’s Tadoba National Park this month, he knew he’d been blessed with a truly lucky shot.
“It was surprising because we thought we will see a tiger but we saw a black leopard strolling on the pathway,” Gawande told the Daily Mail of finding himself just 30 feet away from the leopard.
Approximately 11% of leopards have a pigmentation condition, referred to as being “melanistic,” which turns both their coats and skin black, according to the Daily Mail. The unique genetic happening has unfortunately made such creatures targets for poachers, and only 12,000 to 14,000 are thought to still populate India.
He managed to capture several shots of the animal, which he says is the only black leopard at Tadoba National Park, after it failed to catch a deer and came to rest on the red clay road.
“It came back on road and sat there for 15 to 20 minutes, and we got some amazing shot of the majestic animal.”
Their meeting this month was not Gawande’s first: He also encountered it last year, but that didn’t make the more recent meeting any less special.
“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 moment. We kept our vehicle off and kept enough distance so that it will not move from the spot.”
In 2019, a photographer also made headlines when he photographed a black leopard, at the Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya. Also in 2019, a rare “strawberry” leopard was photographed in South Africa.