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Leopards (Panthera pardus) are elusive and powerful big cats closely related to the tiger,
lion and jaguar. They form part of South Africa’s ‘big five’ alongside the African elephant,
African buffalo, black rhino, and lion. Long ago leopards used to range throughout most
of Africa and parts Asia but as of 2019, 75% of their former range is gone is no longer
occupied by them.
The leopard lives a solitary life and does not hunt in groups. They are primarily nocturnal,
but will occasionally come out in the daylight to bask in the sun. A unique thing about
leopards is the fact that they are powerful climbers and will store their kills high up in the
trees. This is to keep the carcass away from other predators. Leopards are stealthy
hunters and can travel over 10 miles in search of prey in a single night.
Females will produce litters of 2 to 4 kittens after a gestation period of about 3 months.
Leopards prefer to inhabit areas that have sufficient tree cover. Their main habitats being
savanna and rainforest. They prefer to stay away from urban areas and are naturally
cautious of humans.
There are 8 subspecies of leopards. These are the African, Indian, Sri Lankan, Arabian,
Anatolian, Amur, Javan, and Indochinese leopard. The Amur, Arabian, and Javan leopards
are classed as critically endangered. The Amur leopard is considered one of the rarest big
cats on earth. Leopards as a group are currently classed as ‘vulnerable’ on the IUCN list.
Instances of leopards being ‘man-eaters’ are rare but they have occurred. However, it is
usually leopards that are sick or unable to hunt their usual prey that have been guilty of
turning on humans.
Distributions: Leopards are widely spread throughout Africa and parts of Asia.
Description: Leopards are large cats with lightly coloured fur, covered in distinct black
spots. These spots appear as hollowed out ‘rosettes’ and are smaller than that of the
Size: Leopards are the smallest of all big cats. Females range from 46 to 135 pounds and
males 80 to 170 pounds. They range from 7.5 to 30.5 inches at the shoulder.
Duration of life: Leopards live between 12 to 15 years in the wild but can live up to 23
years in captivity.
Food: A leopards diet consists of smaller prey such as rodents and rabbits, and larger
prey like warthogs and various antelope species. They are also known to eat baboons.
Population: There are roughly 700 000 leopards remaining worldwide.