Getting to Know Leopards
LEOPARDS – LET’S GET TO KNOW THEM!
These large carnivores are powerfully built with long bodies, relatively short legs, and a broad head. There are nine subspecies and are distinguished by the unique characteristics of their coats, which range from tawny or light yellow in warm, dry habitats to reddish-orange in dense forests. Their coat is covered in dark, irregular spots called rosettes. These spots are circular in east African leopards, but square in southern African leopards.
The leopard is the most successful of the large cats with the widest distribution. This largely to do with their shy and secretive nature but they are high adaptable and very efficient hunters.
“The leopard is the most successful of the large cats”
17 TO 65 KILOGRAMS (37 TO 143 POUNDS)
1.6 TO 2.3 METERS IN LENGTH (5 TO 7.5 FEET) ABOUT 60 TO 70 CENTIMETERS IN HEIGHT (2 TO 2.5 FEET)
AVERAGE 10 TO 12 YEARS IN THE WILD. UP TO 23 YEARS IN CAPTIVITY.
DESERT AND SEMI-DESERT REGIONS, ARID REGIONS, SAVANNA GRASSLANDS, MOUNTAINOUS ENVIRONMENTS, RAINFORESTS, AND OCCASIONALLY SEMI – URBAN AREAS.
HUMANS are there biggest threat but Lion, Hyena and Wild dog also pose risk.
They are strong climbers.
Pound for pound, the leopard is the strongest climber of all the big cats. Their shoulder blades even have special attachment sites for stronger climbing muscles. They spend much of their time in trees even when stalking prey and for eating. Both lions and hyenas will take away a leopard’s food if they can. To prevent this, they will often store their kill high up in tree branches where it can feed in relative safety.
They like their space.
They are predominantly nocturnal, solitary animals, but each individual has a home range that overlaps with its neighbors. Males have a larger range, and a single male’s range will often overlap with the range of several females. Ranges are marked with urine and claw marks.
Female leopards set down roots when cubs are born.
A female typically gives birth to a litter of two or three cubs. She abandons her nomadic lifestyle until the cubs are large enough to accompany her. She keeps them hidden for the first eight weeks and moves them from one location to the next until they are old enough to start learning to hunt. They get their first taste of meat in six or seven weeks and stop suckling after about three months. The cubs continue to live with their mothers for about two years.
Leopards are cunning, opportunistic hunters.
Their diet fluctuates with prey availability, which ranges from strong-scented carrion, fish, reptiles, and birds to mammals such as rodents, hares, warthogs, antelopes, and baboons.
Where do leopards live?
These big cats tend to favor rocky landscapes with dense bush and riverine forests, but they have also shown to be highly adaptable to many places in both warm and cold climates. They occur in a wide range of habitats; from deserts and semi-desert regions of southern Africa, to arid regions of North Africa, to savanna grasslands of East and southern Africa, to mountainous environments on Mt. Kenya, to the rainforests of West and Central Africa. They even live in some urban and suburban parts of sub-Saharan Africa.