Leopard: The mighty and cunning cat
smallest of the big cats are elegant, graceful and powerfully
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.
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
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.
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.