Leopard

Leopard

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Suborder
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Panthera pardus
Population size
Unknown
Life Span
10-20 yrs
TOP SPEED
45 km/h
WEIGHT
28-90 kg
HEIGHT
57-70 cm
LENGTH
90-190 cm

This middle-sized wild cat has a slim and long body with short, sturdy legs and a long tail, helping the animal to keep balance when in the trees. The head is broad and the skull is large, having strong and powerful jaw muscles. The ears are small and round. The eyebrows exhibit long hairs, protecting the eyes of the animal as it moves through dense vegetation. There are also long whiskers, stretching from dark markings on the upper lip of the animal. The overall coloration and markings of their coat greatly depends on the environment. Thus, leopards, living on open grasslands, typically exhibit a light yellow background fur. Meanwhile, the coat of those, found in forests, is usually darker and covered with more markings. The black rosettes, covering their body, are square-like in populations of South Africa, being circular in those of East Africa. The tail is ringed, and the animal has distinct black markings on its face, chest and feet.

Distibution

These cats are distributed across huge area, stretching from sub-Saharan Africa to West Asia and the Middle East, reaching South and Southeast Asia and Siberia. Leopards are found in a wide variety of habitats, though they usually give preference to areas, covered with trees. They typically live in woodlands, forests and grassland savannas. Less frequently, they occur in mountainous areas as well as scrublands and deserts.

Leopard habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

This animal hunts at night, usually on the ground or in trees. Leopard is generally asocial animal, living solitarily and avoiding other leopards. Moreover, when leopards accidentally encounter each other, they can engage in a fight. Usually, the animal emits a rasping or sawing cough, in order to inform other leopards of its presence. Home ranges of leopards usually overlap with each other. Thus, the home range of a male leopard can often overlap with territories of multiple females. Being exceptional climbers, these animals spend most of the daytime hours resting under sheltered rocks or in shady places among tree branches. In order to warn intruders, leopards usually scratch trees, leaving claw marks. In addition, due to having a highly developed sense of smell, they often use scent marks.

Group name

Diet and Nutrition

Leopards are carnivores. The diet of these opportunistic feeders includes a huge variety of animals such as jackals, antelopes, gazelles, monkeys, duiker, eland, impala, wildebeest, birds, rodents, hyraxes, hares, snakes, sheep, goats and insects. Leopards attain all required moisture from their food, so they can survive without drinking water for long periods of time.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
Year-round, peak in May
PREGNANCY DURATION
90-105 days
BABY CARRYING
2-4 cubs
INDEPENDENT AGE
13-18 months
FEMALE NAME
leopardess
MALE NAME
leopard
BABY NAME
cub

Leopards have polygynandrous mating system, where both males and females mate with a number of mates. They breed throughout the year with peak period, occurring in May, during the rainy season. Gestation period lasts for 90-105 days, yielding from 2 to 4 cubs. The babies are born in a den. Being extremely vulnerable in the wild, the cubs remain hidden, living in a secluded place, covered with dense vegetation. By the age of 6 - 8 weeks, the babies attain their dark, woolly coat, covered with blurry patches, which serves young leopards as a camouflage, allowing them to follow their mother around. Reaching the age of 3 months, the babies are weaned, accompanying their mother at hunt. On the whole, they remain with their mother for 13 - 18 months, after which they leave to find their own territories. They start breeding at 2- 3 years old.

Population

Population threats

Presently, this animal suffers from loss and fragmentation of its natural habitat. Pest control is another serious concern, reducing the population of Leopards throughout their range. In central and western Africa, the animal is hunted for its skin and teeth, which are used in traditional rituals and ceremonial dresses. On the other hand, populations in Europe and Asia are exposed to illegal trade.

Population number

The global population of these animals is unknown for today, except for specific populations in certain areas of their distribution. Thus, population in Africa is estimated to more than 700,000 individuals, whereas population in India varies from 12,000 to 14,000 animals. However, the population of the species as a whole is currently declining, and the Leopard is classified on the UICN Red List as Vulnerable (VU) species.

Ecological niche

Leopards are top predators of their habitat, playing significant role in the local ecosystem by controlling numbers and health of the populations of wild ungulate species.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Leopard can occasionally be seen passing through antelope herds without disturbing them. This happens when the animal simply roams without looking for prey. In order to inform antelopes that it's not hunting, leopard usually flips its tail over the back, exposing the white underside.
  • Leopards are closely related to Black panthers, living in humid forests. As a matter of fact, the latters are leopards, but with recessive melanistic genes.
  • Leopards are considered to be roaring cats, but they typically bark instead of roaring. When angry, the animals usually growl and spit, emitting a furious, screaming roar. When they are satisfied, they tend to purr.
  • Compared to humans, these animals have an incredibly developed sense of hearing; leopards are able to hear five times more sounds than humans.
  • Markings, covering their body, are called rosettes due to reminding roses by their shape.
  • Along with the tiger, lion and jaguar, leopard is one of four big cats, meanwhile being the smallest of them.
  • For safety, leopards tend to store their kills in trees, avoiding disturbance of lions and hyenas that usually try to take away their kill.
  • Leopards are exceptionally good swimmers and excellent jumpers, able to leap up to 6 meters forward and 3 meters high.
  • Throughout history, this animal has played an important role in artwork, mythology and folklore of many countries of its habitat. Even now, leopard is used as a sport emblem in most African countries.

References

1. Leopard Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leopard
2. Leopard on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/15954/0

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