The presence of a leucistic sambar has been documented in the Sangama range of Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary during studies carried out on leopards by conservation scientist Sanjay Gubbi and his team.
The female sambar deer was seen accompanying another adult female sambar and it is speculated that this may be a sub-adult individual with its mother. The animal was spotted in the Hyra beat of the Sangama range on January 17, 2023.
This is the first recorded photographic record of a white form of sambar from this landscape though a white form of sambar deer was previously recorded in Bandipur Tiger Reserve in 2014.
A release by the research team said leucism is a condition in which the pigmentation of an animal’s skin is missing, causing white or pale skin. ‘’This condition can occur naturally from birth due to a phenotype (a trait of any living being) that may have formed from a defect in the animal’s development. It is different from albinism which is a condition that arises due to a lack of melatonin in the animal’s skin, but the animal has pink or reddish eyes. But in leucism the animal lacks the pink eyes,” the release added.
Data such as this photograph can provide many insights into the biology of these herbivores, which remains to be explored, and also their ecology, said the researchers.
‘’The sambar is also listed as a vulnerable species as per the IUCN Red List, so it is imperative that we continue to study them and such unique occurrences. Additionally, it is interesting to note that previously an albino dhole (Cuon alpinus) was also recorded in the same area,” said the researchers.
The sighting of white form of sambar deer is an important natural history documentation for this area, said Mr. Gubbi.