- Panthera pardus
SIZE: Shoulder height 75 cm, mass (m) 60 kg, (f)
COLOUR: Ground colour is off-white to golden, with
black spots on the legs, shoulders, head and hindquarters,
and irregular, light-centred 'rosettes' scattered
profusely over the back and sides.
GESTATION PERIOD: 3 months (90 - 100 days)
POTENTIAL LONGEVITY: 21 years
MOST LIKE: The Cheetah, but the leopard is heavily
built and has no tear marks from corner of eye to
corner of mouth. The leopard's main body markings
are rosettes and not solid spots like those of the
HABITAT: A very wide range of habitat tolerance, from
rainforest to semi-desert, including savanna, mountainous
areas and rocky hills.
Leopards have a very wide habitat tolerance.
They generally occur in rainforests, areas with rocky hills,
mountain ranges or temperate forest, but can even occur in
semi-desert, where they frequent watercourses and rocky outcrops.
In arid regions they are independant of water, deriving sufficient
water from the bodies of their prey, as well as tsamma melons,
but throughout their range they will drink if water is available.
Leopards reach their highest densities in rainforests, to
which they are well adapted, as they are excellent climbers,
solitary hunters and are equally at ease by night or day.
There is a lack of competition from other large predators
in rainforests, and the leopard supplements its diet of buck,
forest hogs and similar animals with the large selection of
primates and rodents: they also eat birds, reptiles and fish.
Leopards also inhabit high altitudes, such as the Virungas,
Mount Kenya and Mount Kilimanjaro, where their major prey
is rodents and hyraxes; arid regions such as the Kalahari
desert; as well as regions that are covered in ice and snow
during the winter.
The Leopard is the largest spotted cat in
Africa, and is a powerful symbol of the wild places of earth:
it is solitary, beautiful, graceful, strong, agile and cunning.
Leopards are the most widely distributed and successful of
the world's large cats, inhabiting more diverse habitats than
any mammal, with the exception of man and certain rodents.
Leopards vary in size depending on location: leopards of the
western Cape are smaller than those found in the Kruger National
Park. It is thought that the woodland leopard is small and
dark compared with its counterpart from more open country,
but it is difficult to validate this, as size is affected
No two leopards are exactly alike, either in their markings
or their background colour, but they do have black spots on
the limbs, flanks, hindquarters and head, with rosettes on
the remainder of the body. The tail is over half the length
of the body, and is either spotted or rosetted.
The underparts of both the body and tail are slightly lighter
in colour than the upper-parts, as this helps with light deflection
in terms of camouflage.
Although smaller than a lion, the sleuthlike leopard is often
more feared. It is fiercer, braver and very intelligent: a
perfectly streamlined killing machine with exceptional hearing,
good eyesight and sensitive, extra-long whiskers which help
it avoid obstacles in the dark. The body is compactly built
and cat-like, the head massive, and the strong, very sharp,
curved claws are fully retractile. The 'dew claw', which is
the claw of the first digit on the front feet, is used to
hold large prey. The claws and first digits on the front feet
do not mark in the spoor. The leopard is also a remarkable
athlete, capable not only of swimming across rivers, but also
of leaping onto rocks up to 3 m high, carrying prey as heavy
as itself, as well as hoisting heavy carcasses into the branches
of trees. Leopards are adept climbers: they climb even smooth
barked trees with ease, and move with confidence among swaying
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