Leopard

The most numerous big cat in the world.

The Leopard is by far the most numerous big cat in the world. It is able to live in dense rain forest, desert mountains and frozen wastelands, a true adapter, and it owes its success in the wild to that fact. The Leopard’s current range includes most of sub-Saharan Africa, India, China, Indochina, Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and South East Russia. This truly beautiful animal would once have been common throughout Africa and Asia but sadly due to loss of habitat and poaching, numbers have been significantly reduced. It is a shame that its beauty seems to inspire envy for its markings in many people and has led to mass poaching over the years.

The Leopard is very similar in appearance to the Jaguar, however, it is smaller and slighter in build. It is still however a stocky powerful animal that is able to bring down prey much larger than itself, and then drag that prey 10m up a tree. In comparison to its size it has one of the strongest bites in the animal kingdom, an attribute it owes to its large head. The Leopard can be recognised from other cats from its golden yellow fur with dark rosettes and spots and a lighter underside. The fourth largest cat in the world weighs in at 30-90kg and has a height of 50-80cm and a body length of 95-170cm. Males are approximately 30% heavier. There is a very large variation between different subspecies in Leopard due to the vast differences in habitat occupied and the animals on which it preys on.

We have already seen that Leopards can live in very different habitats and one of the reasons for this is that they are able to hunt, catch and eat an enormous variety of prey. Their list of possible prey species includes: ungulates, monkeys, rodents, hares, small mammals, amphibians, birds, reptiles and even insects. Leopards are not picky and they are not wasteful, Leopard’s are renowned for being able to consume and digest rotten meat that most other predators would not touch. They are by far the most versatile of all big cats, in fact one Leopard was stranded on a desert island and during studies carried out on this Leopard it was found that it switched its diet to eat almost exclusively fish, and it thrived. Leopards are ambush predators, they are excellent stalkers and will crawl using their short powerful legs and superb camouflage to within less than 30 meters of its prey, before a short sprint up to 35mph fast and a leap onto the animal’s back. It kills by delivering a killing bite to the back of the neck, canines placed perfectly apart to fit either side of the vertebrate and sever the spinal cord.

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