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Leopards

Leopard - Description: The leopard is the most adaptable of all the wild cats and has the widest distribution. The massive skull, long canines, powerful jaw, neck and shoulder muscles and short muscular legs allow the leopard to kill medium-sized antelope easily - and to carry the carcass up a tree to keep it away from other predators. The soft coat varies from a pale yellow to a deep golden brown (depending on the habitat) and has a pattern of black rosettes. The head, belly and lower limbs are spotted with solid black and the two black stripes on the lower neck above the chest (called the necklace) are unique to each individual animal. The leopard has a long tail, spotted for half of its length, with black bands toward the end. The tail is white underneath to enable it to be used as a visual aid when cubs are following their mother. The claws are retractable and permanently sharp. Adults measure 70-80 cm at the shoulder, with an average weight of 55 kg (males) and 35 kg (females).
 
 leopard-with-collar
 
 
Leopard – Habits, Behaviour and Social Organisation: Predominately nocturnal, leopards are active in the early morning and late afternoon, as well as at night. Territories: male 30-78 km², female 15-56 km². Territories are dependent on prey availability: the less prey the bigger the territory. Leopards are solitary; if groups are seen they are either a male and female mating or a mother with cubs. A male will hold a larger territory which normally overlaps the territories of 2-3 females. Territory is marked while the animal is on its nightly forage by spraying urine (which mixes with secretions from its anal glands and lasts for several days), defecating and scratching trees. A leopard can cover 25 km in a night.
 
 
Leopard – Food and Hunting: The leopard is very versatile when it comes to food; by taking advantage of whatever is available the leopard is able to survive where other animals cannot. Insects, mammals (from mice to large antelope), birds, reptiles, fish and fruit are all part of a leopard’s diet. They also scavenge readily. The leopard depends on hearing and eyesight when hunting. Using available cover it gets as close to its prey as possible, preferably within 5 metres. It tries to pounce before the prey is alerted and seldom chases an animal if it misses. The leopard catches its prey with the claws on its front paws fully extended; it kills either with a bite to the throat, asphyxiating the animal, or to the back of the neck, severing the spinal cord. Before starting to feed, the leopard will invariably eviscerate its prey at the kill site before either dragging or carrying it to cover. Once satiated it will either cover the prey with leaves and soil or carry it up a tree to hide it from other predators and will continue to return to eat for up to 5 days or until finished, if undisturbed.
 
 
  
measuring-leopards-teeth 
  
Leopard – Reproduction and Offspring: Gestation: 90-105 days. Litter size: 1-3 cubs. Cubs are born blind weighing 400-600 grams. They are dark and woolly with close-set, indistinct spots. Eyes open at 6-10 days. The female moves her cubs to a new lair every few days. Cubs venture out of the den at 6 weeks. They are taken to kills by their mother from the age of 2 months and are weaned by 3 months. It is more than a year before they are able to fend for themselves and they are independent at 18 months. Females raise their young on their own. Males become sexually mature at 30-36 months; females at 24-36 months.
 
leopard-at-view-point-africat  leopard-cubs-view-point 
  
Leopard - Adaptations: The leopard has a large skull and the scapula is adapted for the attachment of powerful muscles. A varied diet allows it to adjust to changes in prey availability and it is also able to adapt to a changing environment and live close to human habitation.
 
 
Leopard – Population and Distribution: Worldwide: Leopards are found in most of sub-Saharan Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and throughout Asia to Manchuria and Korea. It is the only species that occupies both rain forest and arid desert habitats. The total population is unknown Leopard Population in Namibia: The latest estimate in Namibia was 5469-10610. (Namibia Large Carnivore Atlas – July 2004).
 
 
Leopard – Conservation Status: IUCN Red List: Near threatened CITES: Appendix 1

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