Scientific Name: Panthera pardus
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The first thing most people notice about the Leopard are the black rosettes on the body. These can be of various sizes and shapes as you survey them more closely. The coloring of the Leopard can include shades of red and orange. The majority of the body though will be brown or tan.
They do very well hiding in various environments as they are able to have difficult coloring shades depending on their surroundings. The legs of the Leopard are shorter than other felines. Yet that doesn’t slow them down in the least. These animals also have a skull that is bigger than other felines.
The overall anatomy of the Leopard is very interesting. These are long and lean animals with plenty of muscle in their legs and shoulders. They have a very long tail that helps them to remain balanced. If they didn’t have that long tail they would have to move slower and that would make them less powerful in the area of hunting.
The fact that they have extreme amounts of power in their jaws and with sharp teeth means that they can take down prey that is many times larger than they are. They are skilled hunters with the ability to spring into action and to leap unbelievable distances in order to complete their attack.
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Based on fossil remains we are aware that the felines including the Leopard have been around for the past 11 million years. However, there is a great deal we don’t know about how or why they branched off from each other. DNA evidence has helped up to identify various subspecies of the Leopard. Such further classifications gives us the impression that they have been able to adapt to various changes in their environment for millions of years.
The Leopard likes to be alone and so you will rarely see it with others. When a male and female want to mate they will do so and then leave each other again. The females do seem to enjoy having their young cubs around though. They are skilled at caring for them but also very aggressive when it comes to protecting them.
The Leopard can have a huge home range, with that of the males being much bigger than that of the females. In many instances the home range of a male will be surrounded by females. They usually can overlap without incident but if the male is struggling to find enough food he will make sure the females stay out of his location. That can make it very hard for females to survive when food supplies are being depleted.
There are a variety of different sounds that the Leopard uses for communication. They include purring, grunting, mewing, and roaring. They use these sounds to warn of danger, to protect territory or the young, and when they are looking for a mate.
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Habitat and Distribution
There are many locations out there that the Leopard can call home. They have a body that is versatile so they have no trouble at all walking along various types of terrain. This includes mountain locations, different types of forest areas, and on the open plains with grasslands. In the past there were many of them in China. However, the people there believe that the bones of these animals have healing powers so they continue to kill them.
Warmer climates seem to do very well for the Leopard. They are found spread out around the areas of Africa and Asia. A few of them do also live in the area of Siberia. They are able to spread out and to hide well so getting an accurate count of the number of them in the wild can be very difficult. Sometimes they won’t be seen in a given area for years before they are recognized as still being there.
Diet and Feeding Habits
A huge part of the survival for the Leopard is being able to find enough food. They have to develop skills for ambushing their prey. There is always the risk with larger prey that they will be injured or killed. A kick from a fast moving animal can harm the spine or the head. This is why often consume safer prey that is smaller in size. This includes reptiles, birds, and rodents.
They do consume larger prey though including deer and antelope. These types of prey offer them food for several meals. They will consume all that they can at once. What is left over ends up being hidden from other predators. The goal is to be able to finish it up in the following days.
The female Leopards go through cycles of estrus throughout the year as long as they don’t already have cubs to care for. When she is in such a cycle she will make loud sounds for males to hear. She will also give off strong scents that bring them to her. Sometimes the males will travel long distances to reach her. They may have to fight among each other for the right to mate.
Upon successful conception the female will start looking for a den where her young can be born safely. She needs to hide them from predators as they will be blind and vulnerable at birth. She will have them approximately 95 days after conceiving. She will stay with them when she can but also has to leave them alone to hunt. If she doesn’t eat properly her body won’t produce enough milk for them. She can have from one to four cubs to care for.
The mothers do care for their young and teach them all they can. The young will have to go their own way when they are from 1 ½ to 2 years of age. Even with all she does for them though less than half of them will be able to survive in the wild long enough to reach maturity.
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There are many predators in the wild that will take the opportunity to kill the young Leopards when the mother isn’t around. This includes various types of other felines, fox, wolves, and wild dogs. She may move her young several times to a new den so that the scent of them doesn’t attract such predators.
Humans have long been a serious threat to the survival of the Leopard. In the past the desire for fur coats made out of the Leopard has been one that was very popular. Such coats sold for lots of money so those involved with hunting and killing them were able to make a substantial amount of money. With that fashion now in the past there isn’t much money to be made from it anymore.
That doesn’t mean that the Leopard is out of risk though. They are also experiencing huge losses in the way of their natural habitat due to the efforts of humans. Many people want to use that land to grow food, to build homes, or to make money such as by clearing the forest and selling the wood. This makes it very hard for them to continue finding the amount of food that they require.
There are some conservation efforts in place to help protect the land where these animals live. However, conflicts over environment are just the beginning. Many are worried due to the fact that the Leopard is known to kill humans from time to time. This leads some to feel that there are too many of them out there rather than understanding they are being pushed from their natural locations.