Rare leopard spotted in SA reserve
Cape Town - A rare strawberry-colour leopard has been photographed roaming a game reserve in Mpumalanga, a report says.
National Geographic reported on Thursday that photographer and safari guide Deon de Villiers sent a photo to experts at a US-based wild cat conservation group asking them about the animal’s strange colouration.
Tourists have occasionally seen the big cat. Normal leopards have a tawny coat with black spots.
The president of the cat conservation group, Luke Hunter, told National Geographic that the leopard might have erythrism, a little-understood genetic condition that's thought to cause either an overproduction of red pigments or an underproduction of dark pigments.
"It's really rare - I don't know of another credible example in leopards," said Hunter.
He added: "It's surprising that [a photo of the leopard] didn't come out sooner, because he's relatively used to vehicles."
Erythrism is very unusual in carnivores, and the condition appears most often in raccoons, Eurasian badgers, and coyotes, Hunter told the nature magazine.
While the cat seems to have managed thus far as a carnivore despite his unusual fur, should he venture outside of Madikwe reserve, he will lose the strict protection that it offers and become fair game for trophy hunting, said Hunter.
"It's the fate of a lot of leopards."
- Have you spotted the leopard or any other rare animal? Let us know