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11

A Unique Black Cat



That's one large black cat! But this is no ordinary house cat; it's a serval. A rare melanistic serval, with a recessive gene that makes him as black as any panther. British wildlife photographer George Turner was excited to see this serval on the Namiri Plains of Tanzania. He told the story at reddit.

Can't describe how mind blowing this was... and still is.

For context, even seeing a “normal” serval is tough. They’re shy, secretive cats that tend to live in tall grasses — the perfect combination for staying unnoticed.

Melanism in servals is rare. Super rare. Sightings across Africa can be counted on two hands, with each being incredibly brief cos well, you know, they’re a serval after all.

Three weeks ago, I heard rumours of a black serval in the remote eastern sector of Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. Fast-forward to last Monday and there I was, flying into the “endless plains” ready to try my luck.

Well, what followed will stay with me forever.

As a wildlife photographer, I’m well used to disappointment. There’s been countless assignments where weeks and weeks pass, with zero sightings of the main subject. With the black serval, I was fully prepared for the same.

How wrong I was.

I met my legendary guide, Tony of Asilia Africa, at the dirt airstrip. He was the first to spot the black serval (now named “Manja”) around a month ago now. He [Tony] is a ridiculously talented naturalist, able to pick out - and correctly identify - the tiniest birds at crazy distances. Just what I needed as this was, practically, needle in a haystack.

As we drove towards the eastern sector of the Serengeti (Namiri Plains), we were catching up and generally putting the world to rites, as two old friends do. Our plan was to reach camp, unpack, prep camera gear, then begin our search. In all honesty, we were barely even scanning the plains…. and then:

“Tony, please tell me that I’m not going insane here.”

The tops of a black shape moving through the long grasses. I pulled up the binos, fully expecting to see a termite mound/log/anything but a serval. It continued to move.

There it was, the black serval. Just 1 hour into the drive. We spent a couple hours - at distance - with him until the sun went down. We returned the following day, gone.

Just recounting the story now gives me goosebumps all over again. Truly one of the most special moments in my career.

For context, here is what a serval usually looks like. You can see more of Turner's wildlife photography at Instagram. -via reddit


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