British wildlife photographer George Turner takes many incredible images of wild animals doing what they do best—being wild! Recently when exploring the native wildlife of Tanzania on the Namiri Plains-Asilia Africa, he stumbled upon a most beautiful sight: a pure black African serval cat.
He shared the incredible shot with his Instagram followers a few days ago, and immediately the world took notice. For the caption, George describes this incredibly rare and once-in-a-lifetime sighting:
The black serval. 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. Every time I’ve been privileged enough to see them, my heart skips a beat.
Melanism (increased development of the dark-coloured pigment melanin in skin/hair) in servals primarily occurs in East Africa, particularly in the highland regions over 2000m, which is what makes this sighting particularly special.
At around 1000m, the Namiri Plains, Tanzania, are considerably “lower” than the normal altitude were melanism is more prevalent. It’s likely this particular serval travelled from the nearby – and much higher – Ngorongoro Crater and established a new territory.
Nobody *really* knows why melanism occurs in servals. Some think the increased altitude (and forested habitat that comes with it) reduces exposure to daylight, encouraging melanism.
There’s no guarantee that “Manja” (named after the guide at @asiliaafrica who first spotted him), should he find a mate, will produce melanistic kittens. As melanism is carried by a recessive gene, it could be years before any begin appearing in the area. The hope, for now, is that he continues to flourish in the grasslands and build on his territory. Also, what serval could resist those charming good looks?!
A few of George’s other stunning images of wildlife:
What exactly is the Namiri Plains – Asilia Africa? Their Facebook page shares their mission and story: