Wildlife photographer Mithun H has made a name for himself capturing gorgeous shots of big cats and other animals in the Kabini Forest in Karnataka, India, and his documentation of the black panther named Saaya is featured in the National Geographic series, “The Real Black Panther.” But a recent photograph entitled “The Eternal Couple” is particularly remarkable. The stunning shot finds Saaya looking like a perfect shadow of his leopard mate, Cleopatra, and here’s the story of how it came about.
This is Mithun H.
He’s an expert at capturing extraordinary moments in the lives of animals, such as this photo of a cub hugging his mother with joy after being briefly lost in the undergrowth.
Or this shot of “Kate” and her cub, angrily protecting a kill from another member of the family who was approaching too close.
This photo shows a male tiger who has just noticed an unusual scent on his regular patrol of the Bandipur National Park.
And here, a leopard lounges gracefully in a tree in Kabini, taking a break to watch the world go by.
Some of Mithun’s best photographs occur closer to home, such as this shot of a rose-ringed parakeet taking a bath during the final rains of the season.
But the multi-year relationship with Saaya the panther that has been particularly fruitful. Here, he proudly stalks the forest alongside a leopard.
And here, in a once-in-a-lifetime photograph that is becoming famous online, he stands in as the shadow of his leopard mate, Cleopatra. “I can still close my eyes and relive that moment every single day of my life,” says Mithun of the moment he got the photograph. “You don’t see that often. Probably a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
There was certainly a lot of waiting and patience that went behind. I had waited six days for this in the same spot since I could hear the Panther and Cleopatra mating about 100 meters away in the thick undergrowth but could not see them due to limited visibility. They had made a large kill and would not move until it was over. That is where the knowledge and years of experience of following and tracking the Panther came in handy. I just had to wait at one of his favorite paths since that was the place he would get her since that was the edge of his territory, and this he did after six days. It was a fruitful wait though. I could wait for sox years for a moment like this.
“Usually in the courting pairs generally it is the male who takes charge and moves around with the female following close behind,” Mithun explains. “But with this couple it was definitely Cleo who was in charge while the Panther followed.”
To see more of Mithun H’s glorious photographs of wildlife in India, you can follow his work on Instagram.