KINGDOM: Animalia (Animals)
PHYLUM: Chordata (Possessing a notochord)
CLASS: Mammalia (Mammals)
ORDER: Carnivora (Carnivores)
FAMILY: Felidae (Cats)
SUB-FAMILY: Pantherinae (Big Cats)
GENUS: Panthera (Lions, Jaguars, Leopards, Snow Leopards and Tigers)
SPECIES: Panthera pardus (Leopard)
Leopards are commonly found throughout sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia. There are also small and isolated populations of leopards inhabiting remote geographic locations in the Far East, Northern Africa and Arabia.
Leopards are large cats, with long and slender bodies that are supported by short, stocky legs and a long tail. They have broad heads, small rounded ears, long whiskers on their upper lip and also on their eyebrows. The fur is a yellow to red-orange and white colour and covered with black rosette patterns. There are nine subspecies of leopard, and each have a distinct rosette pattern.
Leopards prefer rainforest, grassland, woodland and mountainous regions as habitat. Although the leopard does occur in deserts and arid habitats, it is more common in areas with reasonable amounts of cover, such as rocks or vegetation.
The leopard is a carnivore (meat-eater), and they will eat antelopes, gazelles, deer, pigs, primates and domestic livestock. They are opportunistic carnivores and eat birds, reptiles, rodents, arthropods, and carrion when available.
Leopards are solitary and territorial animals. Territory is marked with urine, faeces, and claw marks. Although males have a home range of that overlaps with multiple females’ home ranges, individuals usually only tolerate intrusion into ranges for mating purposes.
The leopard is polygynandrous, meaning both males and females have multiple mates. Females attract mates by sercreting hormones in their urine. Breeding pairs may share food resources.
After a gestation period of about 96 days, a litter of two to six cubs are born.
The mother will hide the cubs in a den until they’re about six to eight weeks old, when they are able to follow her. Cubs will be weaned at about 3 months and independence is reached at about 20 months old. Leopards will reach sexual maturity at 2-2.5 years old. They can live up to 27 years.
Humans are the main predators of leopards, however tigers, lions, spotted hyenas and African wild dogs prey on leopard cubs and may kill adults during territorial confrontations.
Threats faced by leopards include trophy hunting, human persecution and habitat loss. Leopards are hunted for their beautiful fur, and also because of killing livestock.
Did you know?
- Leopards are the smallest of the “big cats”
- They can swim
- Leopards can run up to 58km/h and can leap 6m horizontally and 3m vertically
- They will growl when angry and purr when content