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Erythristic leopards Panthera pardus in South Africa

Pirie, T. J., Thomas, R. L. and Fellowes, M. D. E. (2016) Erythristic leopards Panthera pardus in South Africa. Bothalia - African Biodiversity and Conservation, 46 (1). ISSN 0006-8241

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To link to this item DOI: 10.4102/abc.v46i1.2034

Abstract/Summary

Background. Leopards Panthera pardus show genetically determined colour variation. Erythristic (strawberry) morphs, where individuals are paler and black pigment in the coat is replaced by a red-brown colour, are exceptionally rare in the wild. Historically, few records exist, with only five putative records from India known. Objectives. To record the presence of erythristic leopards in our study site (Thabo Thalo Wilderness Reserve, Mpumalanga), and to collate records from across South Africa. Method. A network of camera traps was used to record individual leopards at Thabo Thalo. We also surveyed local experts, searched the popular South African press and used social media to request observations. Results. Two out of 27 individual leopards (7.1%) recorded in our study site over three years were of this colour morph. We obtained records of five other erythristic leopards in the Waterberg and Mpumalanga region, with no reports outside of this population. Conclusions. Erythristic leopards are widely dispersed across north-west South Africa, predominantly in the Lydenburg region. The presence of this rare colour morph may reflect the consequences of population fragmentation.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Biological Sciences > Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
ID Code:62708
Publisher:The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) / AOSIS

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