The leopard

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The leopard is a powerfully built cat whose tail makes up about half of its total length. The overall coat colour is variable but four colour groups can be recognized: rufous to ochraceous in savanna animals; those from desert country display pale cream to yellow-brown coats; rain forest dwellers have dark deep gold colouring; and high mountain-dwellers are even darker in colour.

 

There are black spots on lower legs, flanks, hindquarters and head, but elsewhere on body spots are formed into rosettes. Underparts usually white to off-white and the tail has a white tip.

Distribution

Widely in sub-Saharan Africa, sparsely in Arabia, Turkey, Iran and many Asian countries to as far north as the Russian Far East. Hunting is permitted in most African range states where trophy hunting offered. Some of biggest specimens have come out of northern Tanzania and Zambia’s Luangwa Valley.

Habitats

Virtually all, from sea level to high mountains; one made a kill at 5,700 metres on Mount Kilimanjaro; desert to tropical rainforest.

Behaviour

Solitary animals who occupy home ranges that may cover as little as 10 km² (3.9 mi) to almost 500 km² (193 mi2) in some cases. Males home ranges are consistently larger than those of females. The male marks his territory with urine, droppings and tree scratchings and will defend it against intruding males. Female home ranges are overlapped by those of males. Most hunting takes place just before and just after nightfall, but they will hunt at any time of night or day. Leopards are agile climbers and can swim well. These cats are stalk-and-pounce hunters, in much the same way as domestic cat.

Food

Part of the success of the leopard can be ascribed to the wide range of prey that they hunt, from mice to large antelope. In some areas the 3-4 kg (6.6-8.8 lb) rock hyrax makes up much of their intake. They readily scavenge and will take fish and insects. In areas where lion and spotted hyaena occur they will lodge prey in trees.