By Jack Williams
This stunning image is the first ever shot of a completely LEUCISTIC PUMA to be captured in the wild, leaving biologists in awe.
In the image, shot through a camera trap, the beautiful white creature can be seen walking toward the camera in the Serra dos Orgaos National Park, Rio de Janeiro State, Brazil.
Despite being shot in 2013, the image was not released to the public until recent weeks, due to the research that needed to take place.
The reason for the five-year wait, Celilia Cronemberger, coordinator of the biodiversity monitoring project of Serra dos Orgaos National Park, said, was because this shot represented the first record ever of leucism in pumas.
Leucism is a partial loss of pigmentation in animals, resulting in white or pale patches.
This condition is different to albinism, where there is little or no production of the pigment melanin, which gives colour to parts of the body.
Cecilia said: “We searched scientific journals and the internet and found no published record of leucism in pumas.
“The park protects remnants of Atlantic Forest, one of the most threatened ecosystems of the world.
“At first, park staff was amazed at the beauty of the animal.
“But we weren’t aware of what this record represented, that it is the first record ever of leucism in pumas.
“That is why it took so long for the publication of this record.”
The image is due to be published in a scientific cat journal at a later date, Cecilia added.
The image was taken by camera traps as part of a biodiversity monitoring project conducted by Serra dos Orgaos National Park’s staff.
This is part of a national monitoring program of Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservacao da Biodiversidade (ICMBio), called Programa Monitora.
Cecelia added: “This record stresses the importance of long term monitoring in protected areas as a means not only of keeping track of biodiversity but also of new scientific findings.”