Red leop­ard video a rare feast

The Lowvelder - - Front Page - Arisa Janse van Rens­burg

LYDENBURG - It is fiercely de­bated whether it is called gin­ger, red, strawberry or golden, but nature lovers agree re­cent pho­tos of the ex­tremely rare ery­thris­tic leop­ard were some­thing to roar about.

Th­ese pho­tos of the unique an­i­mal feast­ing on a giraffe car­cass were taken in Jan­uary next to the Black Leop­ard Moun­tain Lodge's guest park­ing.

The pho­tos, de­scribed as some of the clear­est ones of the leop­ard to date, were cir­cu­lated on Face­book at the end of July.

"I still be­lieve it is a golden leop­ard. Be­cause they are so rare, I be­lieve I have the right to call her gold," Alan Wat­son, owner of the lodge and its co­ex­ist­ing wilder­ness con­ser­va­tion re­serve, Thaba Tholo, said.

Wat­son ex­plained he and his wife were headed to the lodge in Jan­uary when they saw the car­cass of the giraffe.

"There was a storm, but we could not see any light­ning dam­age that had killed the giraffe. We pre­sumed it was a preg­nancy gone wrong and that the giraffe might have died of a heart at­tack. Instead of re­mov­ing the car­cass, we de­cided to set up a cam­era to mon­i­tor the an­i­mals we knew would be feed­ing on it."

Wat­son ex­plained that the con­ser­va­tion re­serve has cam­era traps all around the area, which are mon­i­tored on a monthly ba­sis.

Upon look­ing at the footage of the cam­era af­ter a month, Wat­son was sur­prised to find footage of the leop­ard.

Ac­cord­ing to him, this leop­ard is be­tween four and five years of age and they have been mon­i­tor­ing her since birth.

He added that only one other ery­thris­tic leop­ard has been spot­ted in the area.

The Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency's car­ni­vore sci­en­tist, Ger­rie Ca­ma­cho, ex­plained the colour vari­ant of the an­i­mal is caused by a mu­ta­tion in its genes.

"A leop­ard with this colour is born when two leop­ards with the re­ces­sive ery­thris­tic gene mate."

Ac­cord­ing to him th­ese leop­ards

are seen in the Lydenburg re­gion as well as in North West, and the first pho­to­graphic ev­i­dence of a leop­ard of this nature in the Lydenburg area was recorded in 2013.

"The rea­son for th­ese an­i­mals be­com­ing more preva­lent in cer­tain re­gions could be be­cause of the pop­u­la­tion be­com­ing smaller due to hunt­ing of, for ex­am­ple, the big­ger males. This means leop­ards from the same blood­line, both car­ry­ing the re­ces­sive gene, mate with one an­other and a leop­ard like this one is born."

Ca­ma­cho be­lieves it is in fact called a red leop­ard as the mu­ta­tion oc­curs on the red pig­men­ta­tion gene of the leop­ard.

Photo: Black Leop­ard Moun­tain Lodge, www.black­leop­ard­moun­tain­lodge.co.za

The leop­ard feasts on the giraffe car­cass.

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