Aren’t leopards usually a chromatic color and have black spots on them?
Can they actually change their color? The leopards of Africa are typically a tawny color with black spots, but this male leopard is definitely not tawny in color. His fur is in fact a strawberry color. The leopard was sighted in South Africa’s Madikwe Game Reserve. Visitors to the reserve had mentioned seeing a leopard of a different color, but until the photographer, Deon De Villiers, who is also a guide took a photo of the leopard there had been no definite pictures of it. The picture was forwarded to the experts at Panthera, which is a wild cat conservation group run by the US to ask them about this strange color for a leopard.
A Genetic condition
At the Panthera, the president Luke Hunter has speculated that possibly the leopard has erthrism. Erthrism is a genetic condition that could possibly be the result of too many red pigments in the skin or maybe not enough dark pigments. It is a disease that is not well known at this time. It is a rare disease and this is the first known possible case of it in a leopard.
Strawberry colored but healthy
Hunter was surprised that this was the first picture to authenticate the leopards existence. The leopard seems to be very relaxed around vehicles. He appears to be very healthy and his color is apparently not causing him any problems. It is unusual to see this disease in a meat eating animal. It typically occurs in raccoons, Eurasian badgers, and coyotes. The strawberry coloration still allows him to hide in the trees or area growth while hunting for food. Hunter called him, “a successful animal.” As long as he stays on the reserve, he will also be a safe animal. If he wanders off the reserve, he is fair game and it’s legal to hunt him down for just a trophy.