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Saving the Persian Leopard


Leopard: The mighty and cunning cat

 

Leopards, smallest of the big cats are elegant, graceful and powerfully built cats with long bodies, fairly short legs, and broad heads. The base coloration of the coat also varies greatly depending upon location, ranging from golden/yellow in open grasslands, through yellow/cream in desert areas to deep gold in mountain and forest regions with rosettes that are irregular in shape. All black or melanistics, sometimes commonly called ‘Black Panthers’ are born in the same litter as normally marked cats and also carry the rosette markings, although these are masked by the darkness of the fur. It has been observed that the melantistic leopard is most generally found in the dense, wet forested areas of India and south east Asia, where the coloration advantages the cat in its hunting.

 

Leopards are solitary cats which are versatile hunters and generally nocturnal in its pursuit of prey. Leopards often take their kills up into the safety of tree branches, to avoid the attention of hyenas and lions. They are incredibly strong and are capable of lifting carcasses three times their own body weight, placing them high on branches. By dragging the bodies of large animals aloft it hopes to keep them safe from scavengers such as hyenas. Leopards can also hunt from trees, where their spotted coats allow them to blend with the leaves until they spring with a deadly pounce. Leopards are strong swimmers and very much at home in the water, where they sometimes eat fish or crabs.

 

Leopards continually move about their territory, seldom staying in an area for more than two or three days at a time. Ranges are marked with urine and claw marks and leopards announce their presence to other leopards with a rasping cough. Leopards also growl, roar and purr. The overall size of the leopard depends very much on the subspecies and location, with the largest animals growing to a length of nearly 5 feet with an additional tail length of some 3 feet - generally the male is between 20-40% larger than the female.

They live in sub-Saharan Africa, northeast Africa, Central Asia, India, and China. However, many of their populations are endangered, especially outside of Africa. The leopard has been heavily hunted for its pelt for many years. In the early 1960s, leopard poaching reached an all-time high when an estimated 50,000 leopards were killed in East Africa. Today the leopard is a protected species, but it is still hunted by herdsman, 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.