Leopards are beautiful cats that once ranged over most of the eastern hemisphere. This natural range has shrunk over the centuries for this feline known for its spots, though it can also be all black. But what about red?
A very rare Strawberry leopard had been reported to exist by the occasional tourist who managed to catch a glimpse of the animal. They reported that the cat possessed a reddish-pink coat and lighter spots that give the animal an even more freckled look. Earlier this year the leopard was confirmed to actually exist in an announcement by National Geographic. The anomalous coloring is believed to be caused by erythrism, a genetic condition that is not yet understood. It is believed to cause either an over-production of red pigment in the skin and/or fur, or the under-production of darker pigments. The condition is very rare in carnivores.
The leopard appears to not be showing any other effects from the condition, such as a loss of ability hunt due to the difference in camouflage. The greatest danger to the animal lies in the possibility of roaming off of the grounds of the Madikwe game reserve where it was discovered. Then it would become open to being targeted by big game hunters.
Source: National Geographic
Laurie Kay Olson
Animal News Blogger