SPOTTED: The animal world has always been known to be resplendent with colors. However, as with human beings, the color blue is a rare eye color even for animals. Nevertheless, a recent sighting of an entire family of blue-eyed leopards (Panthera pardus) in Pali district in Rajasthan reinforces the fact that nature is filled with such rarities. This rare blue-eyed leopard family was reportedly spotted at Bera near Jawai dam, an area that has been known to be haunted by leopards. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the leopard as a Near Threatened species.
Speaking about the reports of blue-eyed leopards in the district, Thakur Devi Singh Bera, who has been studying leopards in the area for the last 20 years commented,
“This is an extremely unusual phenomenon. The normal color of a leopard’s eyes is amber, but I have personally seen this leopard family with blue eyes, which include one male and one female with two cubs.”
According to his records, Devi Singh first spotted these blue-eyed leopards in December 2012. He has since been keeping a track of the movements of this particular leopard family. Devi Singh said that the leopards were recently spotted in Devgiri hill area just six km away from Bera, and he also added that they were reportedly photographed by some people.
However, other wildlife enthusiasts aren’t so sure about the existence of the leopard family. Former member of National Wildlife Board, Divyabhanu Singh Chavda said,
“Leopard cubs sometimes do have blue eyes, but this is unheard of in a full-grown leopard.”
Chavda, who has spent 60 years in the jungle and has also authored several books on the wild cat, has yet to see a leopard with blue eyes. However, he did add that he had heard that such a family had been spotted in Bera, and if the reports are true then it could be a very rare genetic occurrence, which could only be explained by a geneticist.
Likewise, state forest officials refute the story and say that the coloration is only a variation of light. The leopard’s eyes reflect a spectrum of colors, and the blue-coloration could very well be a reflection of something. Rajpal Singh, member of state wildlife board, said that he had never heard of blue-eyed leopards before. However, he said that if the reports were true then we would need some research to verify if the reason for the blue eyes is a gene variability factor.
Bera, a small village in Aravali region, is hardly visible on a map. However, leopard sightings are high in the vicinity of Bera as the area is home to around 35-40 leopards. The reports of blue-eyed leopards has sparked off a lot of debate on the reason behind the rare eye color. And since seeing is believing, Bera is fast becoming a wildlife photography hot spot.
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Image courtesy TOI