By: Prof. Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Bassam Ali Taher Khalaf-Sakerfalke von Jaffa
Khalaf-Sakerfalke von Jaffa, Prof. Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Bassam Ali Taher (2013). The Pink Panther (Panthera pardus roseus Khalaf, 2013): A New Leopard Subspecies from South Africa. Gazelle : The Palestinian Biological Bulletin (ISSN 0178-6288). Number 108, December 2013, Safar 1435 AH. pp. 26-42. Dubai and Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. http://leopard-panthera-pardus.webs.com/pinkpanther.htm
A pink-hued male leopard was seen and photographed at South Africa's Madikwe Game Reserve in April 2012. Several leopard taxidermies found in some museums have also a pinkish to reddish colouration. This leopard is distinguished from the other Panthera pardus subspecies by its distinctive pinkish coat colouration. It is morphologically a distinct subspecies. The new subspecies was named Panthera pardus roseus Khalaf, 2013.
The Pink Panther (Panthera pardus roseus Khalaf, 2013) wanders South Africa's Madikwe Game Reserve. Photo: Deon De Villiers. National Geographic Daily News (12th April 2012).http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/04/120412-strawberry-leopard-south-africa-animals-science/
African leopards (Panthera pardus) normally have tawny coats with black spots. But a male leopard with a strawberry-colored coat has been spotted in South Africa's Madikwe Game Reserve in April 2012 (Dell'Amore, National Geographic Daily News, 2012).
Tourists in the reserve had occasionally seen the unusual animal. But it wasn't until recently that photographer and safari guide Deon De Villiers sent a photograph to experts at Panthera, a U.S.-based wild cat-conservation group, to ask them about the leopard's odd coloration (Dell'Amore, National Geographic Daily News, 2012).
Panthera President Luke Hunter suspects the pale leopard has erythrism, a little-understood genetic condition that's thought to cause either an overproduction of red pigments or an underproduction of dark pigments. "It's really rare—I don't know of another credible example in leopards," said Hunter, whose group collaborates with National Geographic's Big Cats Initiative. (The Society owns National Geographic News.)
Hunter added, "it's surprising that [a photo of the leopard] didn't come out sooner, because he's relatively used to vehicles." (Dell'Amore, National Geographic Daily News, 2012).
Erythrism is very unusual in carnivores, and the condition appears most often in raccoons, Eurasian badgers, and coyotes, Hunter noted. "There are some spotted leopard skins and melanistic specimens—black panthers—in museums with red undertones, but fading probably contributes to that," he said. Melanism is an unusual development of black or nearly black color in an animal's skin, fur, or plumage (Dell'Amore, National Geographic Daily News, 2012).
The strawberry leopard seems healthy and likely suffers no ill consequences from his pinkish hue, Hunter said: "He's obviously a successful animal." For instance, the leopard's coat still offers him some camouflage—leopards rely on their spotted fur to sneak up on prey and ambush them from as close as 13 feet (4 meters) away (Dell'Amore, National Geographic Daily News, 2012).
More worrisome for the strawberry leopard are the game farms that surround the Madikwe reserve, Hunter said. If the animal were to leave the reserve, he'd lose the strict protection offered by Madikwe and become fair game for legal trophy hunting, Hunter said. "It's the fate of a lot of leopards." (Dell'Amore, National Geographic Daily News, 2012).
The website “Messybeast.com” mentioned: “Other leopard mutants include red (erythristic) leopards with chocolate brown markings on a reddish background described as "rich mahogany". Buff leopards with orange rosettes have occurred; probably due to erythrism in a spotted leopard. A wild erythristic spotted leopard was reported in April 2012 in South Africa's Madikwe Game Reserve. The male leopard, dubbed a strawberry leopard had a golden background with red spots and had been spotted by a number of tourists in the game reserve. Erythrism occurs when normal black pigments are not produced and red pigment is produced instead. This is possibly the result of the non-extension gene which is believed to be responsible for red leopards (black leopards where red had replaced the black colouration) and which is also seen in domestic cats. The red spotted coat still provides some camouflage (especially at dusk or night-time) and the "strawberry leopard" appears to be healthy and successful, but there is a fear that he could stray from the Madikwe Reserve into neighbouring game farms where he could be targeted by trophy hunters seeking a novelty”.
Messybeast.com added: “Assuming that not all red leopard specimens are due to discolouration of black leopard taxidermy specimen, how common is the mutation and what genes are involved? There seem to be fewer than 5 erythristic leopards reliably reported so it would either be a rare spontaneous mutation or a rare recessive gene. The most likely gene is the Extension gene which has been identified in domestic cats (it is also called "red factor", "black modifier" and "agouti modifier"). The dominant form of the gene allows normal expression of black pigment, but if a cat inherits 2 copies of the recessive form (non-extension) it produces red pigment instead of black. If a normal spotted leopard inherited 2 copies of the recessive non-extension form it would have reddish rosettes on a normal background colour. If a black leopard inherited 2 copies of the recessive non-extension form it would have deep reddish-brown spots on a reddish-brown background, exactly what is reported for "red leopards". Black leopards occur due to recessive genes for melanism and are not uncommon in the Indian subspecies, but rarely if ever occur in other leopard subspecies. Red leopards could only occur if a leopard inherited 2 recessive melanism genes plus 2 recessive non-extension genes”.
Red leopard taxidermy on display at a hunting supplies store. http://www.messybeast.com/genetics/mutant-leopards.html
Retrieverman (2012) mentions: “There is some suggestion that these dark red leopards are faded black leopards, which is a possibility. Spots can still be seen on black leopards, so exact chemical make-up of the fur on the spots is different from the fur that comprises the background. So it is possible that these red leopards are faded black ones. The fading could have happened due to age or the treatments used to preserve the skin. I am not sure if anyone has examined these mahogany red leopards to see what they exactly are or were. DNA could be extracted from at least some of these taxidermies. And then we could find out if they were black leopards or not. This strawberry or red coloration is likely a recessive trait, and this should be of concern to leopard conservationists”.
Retrieverman (2012) added: “It is generally pretty uncommon for very rare recessive traits to be expressed in the wild. It’s just the nature of recessive traits. They can only be expressed when they are homozygous, and in nature, there is usually enough mixing of genes to keep recessives diluted in a population. We don’t typically think of common leopards as being endangered at all. They are currently the most widespread of the big cats, and range from South Africa all the way to the Russian Far East. They are currently extirpated from much of North Africa and the Middle East, and there is an unusual isolated population of leopards on Java, which are somewhat smaller than normal common leopards. However, genes do not flow across Asia and Africa as they once did”.
Retrieverman (2012) added: “As I noted earlier, leopards no longer exist in most of the Middle East and North Africa. Only isolated populations still exist. And even within the core of leopard range in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, the habitat is greatly fragmented. Leopards and lions no longer cast genes across vast areas. Very often, they are left in smaller preserves, where it is very easy for genetic bottlenecks to form. Dominant males, which rule prides in lions and overlapping territories of females in leopards, are not overthrown on a regular basis, making it more and more likely for a male to wind up mating with his daughters. New blood in the form of enterprising young males no longer enters the gene pool”.
Madikwe is actually trying to solve some of these problems. There is a current move to create a corridor between it and Pilanesberg National Park. This corridor would allow more of a gene flow to exist between populations of lions and leopards, and it would be a great asset to genetic sustainability of wildlife in this region (Retrieverman, 2012).
This is more and more of a problem than one might expect. Leopards are considered “near threatened” by IUCN, and lions are considered “vulnerable,” a much more serious distinction. If lions and leopards cannot exchange genes over a larger area, the better for both species. Neither has experienced much inbreeding in their natural history, and thus, they have not had an opportunity to experience much purging or evolve any inbreeding tolerance (Retrieverman, 2012).
Unusually colored wild animals often attract attention, but they can be indicative of more serious problems. This cat seems to be doing fine. Let’s just hope the population in which he lives will continue to thrive (Retrieverman, 2012).
Retrieverman (2012) added: “I should note that there are situations in which recessives can exist at much higher levels than one might normally expect. One of these traits has a certain selective advantage; it will appear much more frequently than normal recessives. Among these is melanism in leopards. Melanistic leopards are most common in jungle or rainforest environments — particularly in Southeast Asia– where it may confer an advantage. A black cat can easily hide the shadows of the night, and because leopards are the consummate ambush predators, this might explain why there are so many black leopards– even though this is a recessive trait. There is some suggestion now in the literature that melanism may also enhance the immune system. But if recessives do not confer any advantage, they normally aren’t very common at all”.
Red leopard or fading specimen? To the left is a melanistic leopard, to the right is a melanistic jaguar (face only). The black pigment tends to fade, giving an impression of reddish animals. The darker colour of the jaguar specimen may be due to the fact that jaguar melanism is a dominant mutation while leopard melanism is a recessive mutation. In other species, dominant black has been observed to fade less than recessive black. In an erythristic individual, the black pigment is turned to red, possibly due to the recessive form of the extension gene (red factor gene). http://www.messybeast.com/genetics/mutant-leopards.html
The word panther derives from classical Latin panthēra, itself from the ancient Greek pánthēr (πάνθηρ) meaning "large spotted cat". The Greek word is likely a loan word, but the source language is unknown. An incorrect folk etymology traces the word to the Greek pan- (πάν), meaning "all", and thēr (θήρ), meaning wild beast (Wikipedia).
The Species Name pardus: Middle English parde; Old French pard; Latin pardus; Greek párdos (masculine); derivative of párdalis (feminine); compare Old English (rare) pardus. Meaning a leopard or Panther. (Dictionary.com)
The subspecies name “roseus” means pink or rose-coloured in Latin and refers to the pink coat colouration of the new Leopard subspecies.
After examining the picture of the South African Leopard Panthera pardus from the Madikwe Game Reserve, and the other taxidermies with the pinkish to reddish colouration, and comparing with the other Leopard subspecies, and referring to many zoological references, and searching the Internet, I came finally to a conclusion that we are in front of a new Leopard subspecies from South Africa.
I gave it the scientific name Panthera pardus roseus, new subspecies. The subspecies name “roseus” refers to the pink coat colouration.
Panthera pardus roseus, new subspecies:
Scientific trinomial name: Panthera pardus roseus Khalaf, 2013
Authority: Prof. Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Bassam Khalaf-von Jaffa.
Common Names: Pink Panther, Pink-hued Leopard, Strawberry Leopard.
Location: Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa.
Dell'Amore, Christine (12 April 2012). "Strawberry" Leopard Discovered—A First; Rare animal likely has genetic condition that changes fur pigment. National Geographic Daily News. APRIL 12, 2012. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/04/120412-strawberry-leopard-south-africa-animals-science/