Leopard (Panthera pardus)

              

Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family:    Felidae
Size:    Length: 36 to 71 inches (91 to 180 cm)
Weight: 90 to 175 pounds (41 to 79 kg)
Diet: Small and large animals, including antelopes, monkeys, baboons, dogs and crocodiles
Distribution: Africa and Asia
Young:  2 to 4 cubs, once every year or every other year
Animal Predators:  Lions, tigers and crocodiles
IUCN Status: Endangered/Critically Endangered (see Conservation below for details)
Terms: Young: Cub
Lifespan: 12 to 17 years in the wild and up to 23 years in captivity

 

Facts/Trivia:

       Black leopards (known as black panthers) have spots, but they are barely visible in the dark fur.

       No two leopards have the same spot pattern.

       Leopards have been seen hauling a carcass two to three times their weight, 20 feet (six m) up a tree.

Description

Leopards are similar in appearance to jaguars and cheetahs because all three cats have spots. But while leopards and jaguars have rosettes (brownish patches surrounded by smaller black spots), cheetahs do not. The rosettes on a jaguar are larger than those of a leopard. Jaguars are also larger with a stockier head, while leopards have a smaller body and longer legs and tail. 

 

Habitat

Leopards like to be near water, as they cool off in it on hot days. Leopards live in a variety of environments, including mountains, swamps, woods, savannas and semi-deserts; anywhere that provides them with cover, trees and water. Leopards once inhabited all areas of Africa, but are now found only south of the Sahara, as well as in Indonesia and Asia, east of the Indus and south of Mongolia.

 

Feeding Habits

Leopards are agile climbers and will lie in a tree to wait for their prey, attacking as the victim passes underneath. Unlike most other big cats, leopards do not kill their prey by biting the neckóinstead, they bite through the temple bones of the skull, usually killing the prey with one bite. Leopards stalk whatever is available, including antelopes, monkeys, baboons, dogs, crocodiles, and sometimes, domestic livestock. When leopards have captured prey, they usually carry it up a tree where they will be free to enjoy their meal without worrying about another predator, such as a lion or a hyena, trying to appropriate any of it. 

 

Reproduction

Mating can take place at any time of the year and the males go their own way before the cubs are born in their motherís den. The pregnancy lasts approximately three months, and the cubs are born with spotted fur and closed eyes. In six weeks they reach the size of housecats and by three months they are weaned and begin to go along with their mother on hunts. At a year, they can fend for themselves, but will stay with their mother until they are almost two years old. A leopard can give birth to both yellow cubs and black cubs in the same litter. Black leopards tend to be more aggressive than their siblings. Scientists believe this is because spotted mothers do not like solidly coloured offspring and are not as affectionate with them, even driving them off early. This maltreatment leads to angry, unhappy cats, similar to what happens when human mothers do not form loving bonds with their children.

 

Behaviour

These majestic animals rest in a tree, limbs hanging loosely over a branch while they sleep. Leopards are agile and quick, easily able to leap up to 22 feet (6.7 m) horizontally or 10 feet (3 m) vertically. Unlike jaguars, leopards are aggressive towards humans and have been know to attack and eat humans. Ancient human skulls with pierce holes in each temple were once thought to have been either human sacrifices or victims of cannibalism, but researchers found that when they placed a leopard skull over the human skull, the teeth fit right into the holes, proving that these people were killed by a leopard and dragged into a tree to be eaten. 

 

Conservation

Of the 15 subspecies of leopard, eight are on the IUCNís Red List. Four subspecies are classified as Critically Endangered: south Arabian leopard (P.p. nimr), amur leopard (P.p. orientalis), north African leopard (P.p. panthera) and anatolian leopard (P.p. tulliania). Four subspecies are listed as Endangered: north Chinese leopard (P.p. japonensis), Sri Lankan leopard (P.p. kotiya), javan leopard (P.p. melas) and north Persian leopard (P.p. saxicolor).

 

Sources

http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/panthera/p._pardus$narrative.html

http://www.primenet.com/~brendel/leopard.html

http://www.scz.org/animals/l/leopard.html

http://www.nhm.org/~pcannon/cats/leopard.html

http://www.nature.ca/notebooks/english/leo.htm

http://dspace.dial.pipex.com/agarman/leopard.htm

http://library.thinkquest.org/11234/leopard.html

http://www.lioncrusher.com/animal.asp?animal=57

http://www.lairweb.org.nz/tiger/leopard5.html

http://www.britannia.org/britzoo/classifications/Animalia/Chordata/Mammalia/Carnivora/Felidae/panthera-pardus/

http://members.aol.com/cattrust/leopard.htm

http://www.sundaytimes.co.za/2000/04/09/lifestyle/life02.htm