The solitary leopard is extremely difficult to spot in the wild. It is renowned for its sharp vision and keen sense of hearing and for its unique ability to avoid detection. Although most frequently found in forest regions, the leopard can live successfully in a variety of habitats, from semi desert to the lower altitudes of mountains just below the snow line. Its coat color varies from a very pale yellow to black but it is always spotted.
Habits: Except for a brief time during mating and when the female is rearing her young, the leopard leads a solitary life within a defined territory. Like other members of the cat family, the leopard marks its territory with urine. It will also shred the bark of particular trees within its territory. in areas rich in game, territories are smaller than in those areas that have less prey. THe territories of males are larger than those of females and will often overlap several females' territories. however, males never share portions of their territories.
Breeding: Male and females leopards come together to breed for only 6- 7- days when the female is in heat. The male is drawn to her by the strong smell of urine she sprays on trees during this time. After mating,. the male returns to his territory, leaving the female to give birth and care for the young alone. The birth takes place in a hidden lair after a gestation period of 3 months. If the female carried her young for a longer period of time, it would restrict her ability to hunt, preventing her from killing enough food for herself and her cubs. But the gestation period means that the cubs are born underdeveloped; they are helpless and weigh only 15-20 ounces. WHile the cubs are still small their mother carries them to a new hiding place every few days to lesson their chance of falling prey to lions, hyenas, or even male leopards. At this stage in their growth the spots on their coats are so dense that they appear to be solid grey. THeir milky blue eyes, characteristic of the young of all species of cat, open after 9 days. The cubs generally stay with their mother for 2 years.
Leopard & Man: The leopard has been hunted for its pelts for many years. In the early 1960's leopard poaching reached an all time high when as estimated 50,000 leopards were killed in East Africa. Today the leopard is a protected species, but it is still hunted by herdsmen, shepherds, and poachers. But it is recognized by farmers as having a useful function. It controls such animals as baboons and bush pigs that damage crops.
Food & Hunting: The leopard usually hunts at dawn or dusk. After waiting silently among the brush or in a tree, the leopard ambushes it prey. The leopard kills by biting its prey on the throat or the back of the neck. It will then take its kill, which may be as heavy as itself, up into a tall tree, lodging it in the branches. Here it is safely stored beyond the reach of scavengers such as jackals and hyenas. After eating, the leopard eats a wide range of animals, from baboons, warthogs, and medium sized antelopes to small mammals and birds. Individual leopards will sometimes develop a preference for a particular type food. Its is thought that man eating leopards, which are rare, develop a liking for human flesh after they have tasted it once.
Key Facts: Sizes, Weight, breeding, lifestyle,
Length: 20-24in to shoulder, 40 -50 in, from head to end of back
Weight: 80 - 175 lbs
Sexual maturity: 2 - 3 years
Mating: Year round in the tropics, seasonal in other areas
Gestation: 90 - 112 days
No of young Usually 2 - 3 cubs
Lifestyle: Habit: Solitary
Diet: Mammals and birds
Life span: 12 years in the wild
Distribution: Throughout most Africa and much of Asia from the Middle East t o the Solviet Union, Korea, India, and Malaysia.
Conservation: Numbers greatly diminished. Largely disappeared from Asia minor, Manchuria, and settled areas. The international fur trade is collaborating in regulating trade in leopard skins.
Did you know:
The range of a leopard's hearing is twice that of a humans, and , in dim light, its sight is six times better.
The leopard likes to drink daily but can go without water, as long as a month.
Leopards have a highly developed homing instinct. A group found wandering in a suburb of Nairobi was captured and released in Tsavo National Park, 200 miles away. Within a few weeks, the leopards found their r way back to Nairobi.
Black leopards, called black panthers, were once regarded as a separate species, but they are now considered true leopards. Although they are black, their rosettes of spots are still faintly visible, and sometimes they are even born into the same litters as common leopards.
The Leopards Camouflage:
The leopard's strongly contrasting markings visually break up the outline of its body and allow it to blend in with its surrounds whether it is reacting in a tree or moving through the tall grass. With its silent movements and the excellent camouflage its coat provides, the leopard can get as close as possible to its prey without being noticed before attacking the surprised animal.
Return to animal pages Here: