Conservation Status : Endangered
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The most secretive and elusive of the large carnivores, the leopard is also the
shrewdest. Pound for pound, it is the strongest climber of the larger cats and is
capable of killing prey far larger than itself. One of the Big 5 Of South Africa.
Leopards are excellent hunters.
Physically, the animal has a well-toned body. Its limbs are sturdy and powerful. They are
designed to run, climb, and jump with both grace and ease.
Instinctively, it prefers to stalk its prey. As its tawny, rosette-patterned fur coat blends
in quite well with its surroundings, this ruthless killer is able to keep a low profile when it
is on a hunting expedition. At the moment that its target least expects it, the leopard
emerges from its hideout and bolts toward the victim. If the intended reacts fast
enough, it still has a chance to survive. Otherwise, it will witness its own death in the
blink of eye.
The colouring of the leopard varies from white to bright golden brown, spotted with
black spots and rosettes. The rosettes consist of groups of 5 to 6 spots arranged in a
tight ring. The tail is longer than half the body length measured from head to tail. This
fierce animal has small round ears and long whiskers growing from dark spots on the
upper lip. The size of the leopard varies considerably. The leopard differs from the
cheetah in having shorter legs, and rosette-like spots and is without the cheetah’s
black "tear" marks from eye to mouth.
Name: Panthera Pardus
Size: The leopard ranges in size from 1 to almost 2 metres long, and weighs between 30
- 70 kg. Females are typically around two-thirds the size of males.
Habitat: Bush and riverine forests. Usually in or near thickets on mountain sides or along
streams and rivers. Leopards are mainly nocturnal animals but are also seen during the
day, especially in the early mornings and late afternoons. They usually forage alone
except in the mating season.
Leopards are shy, cunning and dangerous, especially when wounded. Leopards are
very good tree climbers and can pull large prey up a tree to protect it from other
predators or scavengers in the vicinity. They return later to feed again. Leopards still
occur outside conservation areas.
Socialisation: Leopards are basically solitary and go out of their way to avoid one
another. Each animal has a home range that overlaps with its neighbours; the male's
range is much larger and generally overlaps with those of several females. A leopard
usually does not tolerate intrusion into its own range except to mate. Unexpected
encounters between leopards can lead to fights.
Diet: Carnivorous; Small animals and medium size antelope.
Reproduction: Leopard breed throughout the year. The gestation period is 3 months.
Number of young is 2 to 3 although more have been recorded.
Life Expectancy: 20 years.
Both lions and hyenas will take away a leopard's kill if they can. To prevent this leopards
store their larger kills in trees where they can feed on them in relative safety.
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