The most numerous big cat in the world.
Despite being the fourth largest cat in the world it is invariable not the top predator. African Leopards have lions, hyenas and even baboons to contend with, all of which would steal its kills, Asian Leopards have Tigers and Bears to avoid. being outgunned the Leopard has come up with a way in which to protect its kills and that is to drag them up into a tree. A remarkable feat, this is where its stocky frame and extremely developed neck ans shoulder muscles come into their own. Leopards are able to drag prey over twice their own body weight 10m vertically up a tree. In fact the Leopard is particularly well adapted to tree life. Its claws retract in order to stay razor sharp and it has incredibly flexible wrist joints, allowing them to turn their paws inwards to grip the trunk of a tree. This has given the Leopard the affectionate nickname of the tree cat. Not only do Leopards use trees to stash prey, but they also sleep and spend the majority of their time in trees.
Leopards are very secretive cats and are notorious for being the hardest of the big five to spot whilst on African safari. They are extremely nocturnal and solitary, rarely coming into contact with humans. They are the smallest of the Panthera Genus, the other three being Lions, Tigers and Jaguars. As with Jaguars, Leopards have a black colour variation, commonly referred to as a Black Panther.
Unlike other big cats Leopard cubs are born fairly underdeveloped and rely heavily on their mother’s. Leopards have no clear mating season, and after a gestation period of 100 days a litter of 1-5 cubs will be born. The cubs are born with closed eyes but grow fast and reach independence after just 18 months. During its early months Leopards are extremely vulnerable, as previously mentioned, larger very dangerous competitors such as lions, tigers and hyenas will kill a Leopard cub if they find it. They are unable to climb trees to safety like their parents and rely on their mother’s aggression and lightning fast reactions to warn off those who would harm them.
The Leopard is the most numerous of the seven big cat species, with approximately 100,000 in the wild. However, there was, at one stage estimated to be well over a million, it was once the most widespread cat, covering all of Africa and Asia. It has the current status of near threatened which is promising, however, given the fact that its habitat is rapidly shrinking, it seems that whilst the leopard’s future is secure it may be limited to safari parks and nature reserves before too long. The species as a whole is fairly safe, however, given the range of diversity in both habitat and diet, it follows that there are many subspecies. The most threatened of which is the Amur Leopard. These Leopards live in South East Russia and survive in near Arctic conditions. African Leopards could not survive here. There are only 34 left in the world and this number is sadly falling. Unlike other Leopard subspecies, if this is lost it cannot be replaced with others, if it is lost, it is lost forever. I have adopted an Amur Leopard, it is very easy to do and I would ask anyone who has enjoyed this article or the pictures within it to do the same. Thank you.