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Bothalia - African Biodiversity & Conservation

On-line version ISSN 2311-9284
Print version ISSN 0006-8241

Abstract

PIRIE, Tara J.; THOMAS, Rebecca L.  and  FELLOWES, Mark D.E.. Erythristic leopards Panthera pardus in South Africa. Bothalia (Online) [online]. 2016, vol.46, n.1, pp.1-5. ISSN 2311-9284.  http://dx.doi.org/10.4102/abc.v46i1.2034.

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 known from India. OBJECTIVES: To record the presence of erythristic leopards in our study site (Thaba Tholo Wilderness Reserve, Mpumalanga) and to collate records from across South Africa. METHOD: A network of camera traps was used to record individual leopards at Thaba Tholo. We also surveyed local experts, searched the popular South African press, and used social media to request observations. RESULTS: Two out of 28 individual leopards (7.1%) recorded in our study site over 3 years were of this colour morph. We obtained records of five other erythristic leopards in the North West and Mpumalanga regions, with no reports outside of this population. CONCLUSIONS: Erythristic leopards are widely dispersed across north-east South Africa, predominantly in the Lydenburg region, Mpumalanga. The presence of this rare colour morph may reflect the consequences of population fragmentation.

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