Common Name: Leopard
Scientific Name: Panthera pardus
Description:One of the spotted cats: more lithe than the South American jaguar but stockier than the cheetah. Melanistic, or black, individuals occur most frequently in deep forest. The dark spotted pattern may still be seen against the slightly lighter background. Adult males can weigh from 30 to 70 kg with records around 90 kg. Speeds in excess of 60 km/h are known. It has been known to jump distances of 6 m. Although more rare in occurrences than the tiger, the leopard is also a proficient man-eater. The man-eater of Panar killed four hundred humans before it was shot by Jim Corbett in 1910. Leopards have also been known to enter human housing. One government official's daughter entered her bedroom and saw a leopard's tail visible from beneath the bed. She shut the door and escaped safely. Another gentleman was eating in his bungalow when a leopard ran into the dining area, attacked his dog, and exited with the canine. The name leopard came from the mistaken idea that the cat was a cross between a lion (leo) and a panther (Middle English: parde).
Range: South Asia with some populations in far East. Also on the African continent below the Sahara Desert.
Habitat: Very flexible. Anywhere that provides adequate cover with access to prey. From cold mountainous terrain to tropical rainforests. Leopards living in public parks near urban areas have also been reported.
Diet: Carnivorous: small to medium/large prey. Mostly antelope and other ungulates. Monkeys, rabbits, and rodents are also known to be eaten. One leopard was even spotted eating beetles. Domestic dogs appear to be a particular favorite. Carcasses are regularly carried into trees for continued consumption over an extended period. Even young giraffe have been seen so placed in the fork of a tree.
Social Life: Males share the same acreage as one or two females and fight other males for females. Gestation ranges from 90 to 105 days with an average of 2 to 3 cubs born. Upon the birth of their cubs, some males have been reported to assist in the rearing of the newborns. Cubs generally achieve independence between one and a half to two years of age. A longevity of 10 to 12 years is average for a wild individual. Late teens to early twenties are frequently known in captive individuals. You can see a fascinating documentary on leopard family life in National Geographic's Beauty and the Beasts: A Leopard's Story.
Conservation: CITES listed on Appendix I. IUCN as threatened with some endangered subspecies. USDI lists as endangered except for populations listed as threatened in the Southern portion of the continent. Although sport hunting is permitted in the threatened range, illegal hunting is still done for pelts.
Recommended LINKS & BOOKS
Africam's Field Guide page on leopards.
Dr. David Macdonald's Encyclopedia of Mammals is one of the great standards for mammal information including the gazelles. Purchase it through Amazon.com by clicking on the photo to help the zoo!
Another excellent text on African mammals is The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals.