Forget the pink panther! Rare strawberry leopard spotted in South Africa for the first time


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A couple have made the ultimate spot after they caught the world's rarest leopard on camera - in astonishing never before seen photos.

The rare strawberry leopard - or erythristic species - was snapped by a motion triggered camera pinned to a tree in Thaba Tholo Wilderness Reserve in South Africa.

Reserve owner Alan Watson, 45, and his Irish wife Lynsey, 41, had seen the elusive pink hued species skulking around the reserve but had never been able to catch it on film.

But the pair snapped the beast feasting on a dead giraffe near their lodge in the first ever set of photos of the animal up close and eating.

Alan and Lynsey, from Belfast, got the pics after they set up a camera next to a giraffe killed in an intense thunderstorm.

Suspecting they might get "a few hundred photos of grass moving", Alan was astonished when a researcher reviewing the pics spotted the strawberry leopard.

 

Strawberry leopards are caused by a rare gene mutation called erythrism (Image: Black Leopard Mountain Lodge)

Alan, owner of Black Leopard Mountain Lodge, has nicknamed the leopard 'Goldie' and said he's hopeful more of the rare species will be born in years to come.

The stunning big cat - also called the Golden Leopard - was only officially discovered for the first time in 2012, in a different location, close to the Botswana border.

Dad-of-three Alan said: "As far as I know, this is the rarest color of leopard in the world. We hope she will bring new people to the lodge. A lot of people who come to spot wildlife in the area go away disappointed not to have seen a leopard.

"They are so well camouflaged and incredibly elusive. Even these ones, if they were going through the long grass you wouldn't see them. If she doesn't want to be seen, you aren't going to see her.

"It's so nice to discover something new in nature. So much of the time you hear about species being extinct, and here we are with something new. It's incredible."

 

A rare strawberry leopard is caught on a trail camera feeding on a giraffe (Image: Black Leopard Mountain Lodge)

For more information about the reserve and lodge visit: www.blackleopardmountainlodge.co.za

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