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The Leopard had great variation in appearance and behavior. It is also the widest distributed of all the world’s wildcats. It’s coat color can vary from a pale yellow, to gold or a tawny color. It’s head and limbs and stomach are spotted with solid black blotches. Coat color and patterning are associated with it’s habitat.
1. Savannah Leopards – Reddish to orange color
2. Desert Leopards – Pale cream to a yellow-brown coloring,
The ones from cooler regions a more grayish color.
3. Rainforest Leopards – dark, deep golden coloring
4. High mountain Leopards – even darker than 3
Black Leopards/Black Panthers are found most frequently in humid forests but are just a color variation and not a subspecies. Variations in color has been the basis for the naming of 24 subspecies of Leopards in the Sub-Saharan Africa alone. However most of these animals are not really subspecies but merely color variations.
Eating and Hunting Habits
The Leopard has a great ability to adapt to different
availability of prey. They have adapted in size variations ranging from 41 kg full grown to 91 kg full grown. The Leopard’s prey ranges from tiny dung beetles to the adult male eland which can weigh up to 900 kg. The Leopard also eats mostly medium sized prey such as small antelope or other medium sized animals depending on climate and region. The Leopard also has no problems adapting to the overlapping of it’s hunting ranges with other large predators such as Lions because of their wide range of foods they consume. They are also very strong and have been known to carry prey up to 129 kg in weight into trees up to 5.9 km high. The Leopard also carries it’s prey into thick brush some hundreds of meters from the kill site just to get away from competing predators. They are generally most active from sunset to sunrise and kill more prey at this time than any other time.
Reproductive Season: Year-Round, peaked during the birth season of impala, their main prey
Estrus: average 7 days
Estrus cycle: average 46 days
Pregnancy: 96 (90-105) days
Litter Size: 1-4 cubs
Cub Survival Rate: First-year mortality estimated at 41% to at least 50% annually
Sub-adult Survival Rate: Average mortality 1.5-3 years old 32% nearly twice as high as the adults- females 40% males: 25%
Interbirth Interval: average 15 months
Age at Independence: 13-18 months- Siblings may remain together for up to several months before separating.
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Age at First Reproduction: Females:33 months (range 30-36) average 35 months
Reproductive Rate: 28% noting that some years no females gave birth while in others up to half of the females produced young
Sex Ratio of Resident Adults: 1 male : 1.8 females
Age at Last Reproduction: Average 8.5 years at one zoo
but up to 19 years( both sexes)
Adult Mortality: average 19% annual mortality for adult leopards at the Kruger National Park. Old Males 30%, prime males 17%, old females 17%; prime females 10%. The proportion attributable to starvation was 64%.
Longevity: Probably 10-15 years but generally 12-15 years but up to 20
Habitat and Distribution
Leopards live in most of Sub-Saharan Africa. Leopards
are found in every habitat with the annual rainfall more
than 50mm. They are also found in areas with less than
that amount near rivers. The Leopard is the only wild cat
that inhabits both arid deserts and humid rainforests.
The Leopard is very successful at adapting to and altered
habitat and settled environments with the absence of
intense persecution. There are many records of their
presence near many major cities. Though they have
appeared to become rare through out the west of Africa.
Though it is sometimes disputed the Sub-Saharan
population is estimated to be about 714,000 and thus the Leopard is not endangered. However that is subject to depletion through loss of habitat and exploitation. This number is also generally considered to be an overestimate.