LEOPARDS - EVERYTHING ABOUT THE PROUD PREDATORS


Posted on Nov 25, 2022      233


Sleek as a gazelle, strong as a lion and clever as a fox - leopards are extremely versatile animals that, thanks to their adaptability, have survived in areas where other predatory cats have long been extinct. The (mostly) spotted, proud hunters rank fourth among the world’s largest wild cats - ahead of them are the tiger, lion and jaguar - but are otherwise in no way inferior to them.

DISTRIBUTION OF THE LEOPARD

If you want to see leopards (Panthera pardus) in the wild, go to Africa or Asia. On the African continent, the big cats are spread south of the Sahara. In Asia, their population extends across the Middle and Far East, India, the Himalayan Mountains, China, to the extreme northeast of Russia. In the past, wild cats, known as solitary animals, were also present in many other countries, such as Turkey. However, they were hunted there and became extinct. In other parts of the world, the habitat was destroyed, with which the animals also died out.

Where the predatory cats are native, they occur in almost all habitats. Whether in the jungle, in the snow-covered mountains or in the steppe - the adaptable creature makes itself everywhere, where it finds sufficient food. The animals do not even shy away from the proximity to humans, as they find easy prey as domestic animals in their surroundings. However, their feeding habits can cost them their lives, namely when people kill them because of it.

LEOPARD, PANTHER OR JAGUAR? CHARACTERISTICS OF THE ANIMALS

Leopards, panthers and jaguars are often confused. However, if you look closely, they have some differences. In particular, the animals have different coat patterns. Leopards have small black spots called rosettes. Jaguars have larger rosettes. They are also most at home in the tropical rainforest around the Amazon. Jaguars and leopards are related to each other.

The easiest to distinguish is the panther. Its characteristic is its black fur, just like Baghira’s from the Jungle Book. Panthers are black leopards. They often occur in the same litter with spotted cubs. The black elegance is mainly found in the humid forests of Burma, Nepal, southwest China and parts of southern India.

LEOPARDS ON THE HUNT: THE INVISIBLE LONERS

The leopard’s diet is as varied as the animal itself. From ungulates and small game to birds and reptiles, it’s all there. The hunters even make do with insects, which they only eat in times of extreme hunger. The invisible loner usually goes hunting in the evening and night hours. The excellent climber can often be found in trees, from which he has a good view of his surroundings and patiently waits for a suitable victim to approach. Once this is found, he sneaks close enough and attacks when his prey no longer escapes. With his powerful attack and a well-aimed bite into the throat, he seals the end of his victims’ lives.

Worried about competition for its prey, it usually eats the heart and liver of the killed animal and takes the carcass to shelter. Females use it to feed their young, while males secure their food on the next tree. Securing food is a real feat of strength for the leopard, because it often preys on animals that are considerably heavier than itself. Once brought into a protective habitat, he feasts on his food for several days.

LEOPARD REPRODUCTION

The female exhibits a special behavior during the mating season. She restlessly roams through her territory, marking different places like trees, bushes and boulders with her urine. She also scratches the ground with her hind legs. With her behavior and scent mark, she signals to male leopards that she is ready for courtship. Once she has attracted a mate, the two stay together for about a week and mate repeatedly. If the mating attempt is unsuccessful, the female leopard goes in search of a suitable mate again after 25 to 28 days.

ENEMIES OF LEOPARDS: OTHER BIG CATS AND HUMANS

Leopards are fighters, yet they are not free from threats. Their biggest enemies are other predatory cats such as lions, from which they usually take refuge in trees. In addition, humans are a threat to the animal because they sometimes destroy its habitat. For a long time, the leopard’s fur was also highly coveted, being processed into expensive furs. According to the World Conservation Union IUCN, approximately 86,000 leopard pelts were traded annually from 1976 to 1990. Since trade restrictions were successfully enforced and also thanks to a change in buyer behavior, the fur trade hardly poses a threat to the survival of the animals.

Conclusion: Leopards are the fourth largest wild cats in the world. They can be recognized by their spotted fur markings. However, there are also black leopards known as panthers. These elegant hunters are native to Africa and Asia. Whether in the jungle or in the grasslands - the proud predators adapt perfectly to their environment. They owe this to their flexible diet: they feed on small animals and reptiles or carrion. Today, leopards are considered being less endangered animals, although there are species that are more endangered than others. Their biggest enemies are other big cats, like lions or humans, who destroy their habitat.


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