By G.S. KUMAR
BANGALORE: Wildlife enthusiasts who were elated after spotting pug marks of the endangered black panther in the forests of Uttara Kannada were dismayed over the news that broke early on Sunday.
A black panther was run over by an unidentified heavy vehicle on Kumta-Sirsi National Highway on Saturday night, pointing to the fragile situation of the species.
S Ramesh, divisional forest officer, Honnavar division, told TOI on Monday that the body was found near Kshethrapal temple in Katgal range on Sunday morning. It was noticed by the temple priest who informed the forest department.
"It was a three-and-a-half-year-old male panther, which was most probably hit by a truck. It was found dead on the road with its face smashed. The accident must have taken place when the animal was crossing the road in pursuit of its quarry or to drink water. The postmortem has been done and a case has also been registered," Ramesh said.
In a similar incident three years ago, a black panther was found dead on the same road in the Katgal forest range. "It is an endangered species. We were happy to see its pug marks during the recent tiger count in the area. The animal has been traced in the Western Ghats region too," the forest officer said.
B B Mallesh, director, Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve, said: "Black panthers are commonly found in dense evergreen and low-light forests. They resemble leopards without their colour and dots. They have been listed as threatened species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). They are very shy in nature and move around at night. They hunt small mammals like chital, barking deer, mouse deer, hares and birds.''
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) says black panthers (melanistic leopard) have a wide range and are common in some parts of Africa and tropical Asia. However, they are declining in huge numbers due to habitat loss and fragmentation, hunting for trade and pest control. The US Endangered Species Act has listed black panthers on the African continent as 'threatened' (South Africa) and 'endangered' (the rest of Africa, Middle East and Asia).
B B Mallesh, director, Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve, said black panthers found in the Western Ghats are threatened by degradation and fragmentation of forests, as also development projects.