23 Feb 2017
Leopard (Panthera pardus)
The leopard is part of the felidae family and can be found in a variety of habitats, however, their territories often include dense bush areas and rocky out crops to aid them in hunting and hiding. Leopards have a rustic gold coat covered with black rosettes. This feline is one of the larger predators – measuring 60 to 80cm at the shoulder and weighing between 40 and 90 kilograms.
The leopard is an adaptable, widespread species that nonetheless has many threatened sub-populations. While still numerous and even thriving in some marginal habitats from which other big cats have disappeared in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, in North Africa leopards are on the verge of extinction.
Wildlife ACT’s Work with Leopards
RESERVES : Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, Mkhuze, Somkhanda
- We are conducting long-term Leopard Population Surveys in partnership with the global big cat authority, Panthera. The survey is the largest of its kind on leopards in the world.
- This project is run for two months every year using remote camera trapping methods in the region of over 150 remote cameras.
- We are responsible for the entire fieldwork section of this project – managed by a dedicated team.
- The aim is to monitor whether there are any changes to the core leopard populations over time and feed this information to relevant reserve managers.
Near threatened, the species is at risk, but is not as yet considered vulnerable to extinction in the wild.
The leopard is an adaptable, widespread species that nonetheless has many threatened sub-populations. While still numerous and even thriving in some marginal habitats from which other big cats have disappeared in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, in North Africa leopards are on the verge of extinction. There are no reliable continent-wide estimates of population size in Africa, and the most commonly cited estimate of over 700,000 leopards in Africa (Martin and de Meulenaar 1988) is flawed.
Throughout Africa, the major threats to Leopard are habitat conversion and intense persecution, especially in retribution for real and perceived livestock loss (Ray et al. 2005). Leopard come into conflict with people across their range. A rapidly increasing threat to Leopards is the poisoning of carcasses targeting carnivores, either as a means of predator control or incidentally. (IUCN)
The impact of trophy hunting on populations is unclear, but may have impacts at the demographic and population level, especially when females are shot. (IUCN) Skins and canines are still widely traded domestically in some central and West African countries where parts are used in traditional rituals and sold openly in villages and cities (Hunter et al. in press).
Interesting Leopard Facts
- The leopard has rosettes rather than spots like a cheetah.
- Originally, it was thought that a leopard was a hybrid between a lion and a panther. The leopard’s common name derives from this belief; leo is the Greek and Latin word for lion and pard is an old term meaning panther.
- There are nine sub-species of leopard, however only one of these occur in Africa.
- Leopards are astoundingly strong. They are pound for pound the strongest of the big cats. They are able to climb trees, even when carrying heavy prey.
- The leopard is the most elusive and secretive of the big cats.
- These secretive individuals can live anywhere from 11 to 16 years.
- Leopards have been known to scavenge and will not let the opportunity of a free meal pass them by.