Sighting of black panther renews demand for protecting big cats in Goa

Paul Fernandes
Saturday, 9 May 2020

A proposal mooted by Jairam Ramesh, then union minister for environment and forest (MoEF) to then chief minister, Digambar Kamat on June 28, 2011 regarding Mhadei tiger reserve has been pending for nearly a decade.

Panaji: Chief Minister, Dr Pramod Sawant’s recent tweet with a photo of a sparkling elusive black panther has reignited the demand from wildlife experts and nature enthusiasts for need of a reserve or corridor for big cats.

A proposal mooted by Jairam Ramesh, then union minister for environment and forest (MoEF) to then chief minister, Digambar Kamat on June 28, 2011 regarding Mhadei tiger reserve has been pending for nearly a decade.

Omiii, a twitter user endorsing the proposal tweeted, “The Mhadei sanctuary can be merged with all the protected areas and made into a tiger reserve.”

A J T Johnsingh, former dean, Wildlife Institute of India, Dehra Dun had around five years back suggested even a wider base for the carnivores in Goa – a contiguous 755 sq km swathe of four protected areas for a tiger reserve.

This recommendation was also shelved after Goa government had asked him to assess the habitat status and other aspects of the proposal.

“A contiguous corridor in core areas excluding human settlements would benefit the State,” Rajendra Kerkar, an environmentalist said.

The reactions to CM’s tweet did cause some amusement among forest officials who realised that some had confused the black panther with the Jaguar, ‘Bagheera’ from the Jungle Book series.

“This black panther species belongs to leopard family. They are children of the same mother, one dark and the other fair,” Prakash Salelkar, retired Range Forest Officer (RFO) said. “A closer look reveals the rosettes on the black panther,” he said.

The retired forest official who set up camera traps in Mhadei between 2016 and 2018, had recorded presence of at least six black panthers. On one occasion, it was seen quietly sharing a sambhar meal with a leopard (see photo).

The black panthers can be found in the entire Western Ghats range and the first one was documented on record in 2004 by RFO, Paresh Porob in Cotigao. 

“But the number of the black carnivores, about 25 to 30, is less than leopards, which could be in the range of 90,” Salelkar said.

 

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