Leopards

Leopards Safaris to Maiko National Park

The leopard is one of the five “big cats” in the genus Panthera. It is a member of the family Felidae with a wide range in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia. Fossil records suggest that in the Late Pleistocene it occurred in Europe and Japan.

The leopard has relatively short legs and a long body with a large skull. It is similar in appearance to the jaguar, but has a smaller, lighter physique. Its fur is marked with rosettes similar to those of the jaguar, but the leopard’s rosettes are smaller and more densely packed, and do not usually have central spots as the jaguar’s do. Both leopards and jaguars that are melanistic are known as black panthers.

The African leopard is the leopard nominate subspecies native to Africa. It is widely distributed in most of sub-Saharan Africa, but the historical range has been fragmented in the course of habitat conversion.

The leopard is distinguished by its well-camouflaged fur, opportunistic hunting behaviour, broad diet, and strength (which it uses to move heavy carcasses into trees), as well as its ability to adapt to various habitats ranging from rainforest to steppe, including arid and montane areas, and its ability to run at speeds of up to 58 kilometres per hour (36 mph).

Behavior and characteristics

Leopards spend most of their days strolling through the savannah or the forests, hiding in tree or caves. The leopards are very solitary animal and are very rarely seen in pairs. While other carnivores such as lions can live in groups/ prides, that is not the case with leopards, these animals are loners. The only time you can see them in pairs is during mating. But because they are solitary animals they do not multiply as much as other animals that live in groups.

They are very fast and stealthy and the spots on their skins provide camouflage which helps them hide and difficult to spot. They are also nocturnal and that is why it is extremely rare to spot them on a game drive through the parks.

Lions sometimes hunt and kill leopards, so they avoid lions. They also avoid hyena, which are annoying enough to steal their kill/food before the leopard has time to hide it.

How do leopards survive on their own?

Leopards are very adaptable. No matter what their surroundings are. Be it rainforests, jungles, deserts, mountains, or savannah, they are able to adapt and survive in their environment.

They are very fast and agile and can pounce on prey from trees and haul them up the trees. They are strong and can take down prey which is three times their size.

They are also very good swimmers and can hunt fish in water, and other things such as reptiles, insects, and animals that may be grazing near the water. If leopards are living near human settlements, they will feed on livestock such as goats and chickens.

How about reproduction?

Leopards do not have a specific mating period; they can mate any time of the year. Conception takes can happen about 90 to 100 days later.

A female leopard can give birth to up to four cubs.  The mother finds a cave or well protected area to protect and raise her cubs. The mortality of leopard cubs is very high though. It is at about 50%. Those that survive stay with the mother leopard for about 1 ½ to 2 years, during which time they paly with each other and learn to hunt for their own food.