Leopard

Panthera pardus

The leopard is one of the five "big cats" in the genus ''Panthera''. It is a member of the Felidae family with a wide range in regions of sub-Saharan Africa, West Asia, the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia to Siberia. Fossil records found in Italy suggest that in the Pleistocene it ranged as far as Europe.

Compared to other members of Felidae, the leopard has relatively short legs and a long body with a large skull. It is similar in appearance to the jaguar, but is smaller and more lightly built. Its fur is marked with rosettes similar to those of the jaguar, but the leopard's rosettes are smaller and more densely packed, and do not usually have central spots as the jaguar's do. Both leopards and jaguars that are melanistic are known as black panthers.

The leopard's success in the wild is due to its well camouflaged fur; its opportunistic hunting behaviour, broad diet, and strength to move heavy carcasses into trees; its ability to adapt to various habitats ranging from rainforest to steppe and including arid and montane areas; and to run at speeds up to 58 kilometres per hour .

It is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List because leopard populations are declining in large parts of their range. They are threatened by habitat loss and pest control. Their habitats are fragmented and they are illegally hunted so that their pelts may be sold in wildlife trade for medicinal practices and decoration. They have been extirpated in Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuwait, Syria, Libya, Tunisia and most likely Morocco.
Temple Leopard It was past sunset and as we where leaving the park we turned a corner to come face to face to this leopard relaxing atop of a ruined temple. I had 30 seconds to shoot off a few frames before it got too dark to auto-focus and the cat left, elegantly wandering back into the unknown forest beyond. A magical moment! Fall,Geotagged,India,John Rowell,JungleDragon January 2015 photo contest,Leopard,Panthera pardus,adhocphotographer,india,kabini,karnataka,leopard,nagarhole

Appearance

Leopards show a great diversity in coat colour and rosettes patterns. In general, the coat colour varies from pale yellow to deep gold or tawny, and is patterned with black rosettes. The head, lower limbs and belly are spotted with solid black. Coat colour and patterning are broadly associated with habitat type. Their rosettes are circular in East Africa but tend to be squarer in southern Africa and larger in Asian populations. Their yellow coat tends to be more pale and cream coloured in desert populations, more gray in colder climates, and of a darker golden hue in rainforest habitats. Overall, the fur under the belly tends to be lighter coloured and of a softer, downy type. Solid black spots in place of open rosettes are generally seen along the face, limbs and underbelly.

Leopards are agile and stealthy predators. Although they are smaller than most other members of the ''Panthera'' genus, they are able to take large prey due to their massive skulls that facilitate powerful jaw muscles. Head and body length is usually between 90 and 165 cm . The tail reaches 60 to 110 cm long, around the same length as the tiger's tail and proportionately long for the genus . Shoulder height is from 45 to 80 cm . The muscles attached to the scapula are exceptionally strong, which enhance their ability to climb trees. They are very diverse in size. Males are about 30% larger than females, weighing 30 to 91 kg compared to 23 to 60 kg for females. Large males of up to 91 kg have been documented in Kruger National Park in South Africa; however, males in South Africa's coastal mountains average 31 kg and the females from the desert-edge in Somalia average 23 to 27 kg . This wide variation in size is thought to result from the quality and availability of prey found in each habitat.

The leopard's body is comparatively long, and its legs are short. The largest verified leopards weighed 96.5 kg and reached 190 cm in head-and-body length. Larger sizes have been reported but are generally considered unreliable.
On the Prowl   Leopard,Panthera pardus

Naming

In antiquity, a leopard was believed to be a hybrid of a lion and a panther, as is reflected in its name, which is a Greek compound of ''leōn'' and ''pardos'' . The Greek word is related to Sanskrit ...snipped... , and probably derives from a Mediterranean language, such as Egyptian.

A ''panther'' can be any of several species of large felids: the term can refer to cougars and jaguars in the American continents but it is largely thought to define the leopard at its source. ''Black panther'' refers to leopards with melanistic genes, which are not uncommon in rainforest habitats.

The generic component of its modern scientific designation, ''Panthera pardus'', derives from Latin via Greek πάνθηρ . Folk etymology saw the name as a compound of παν and θηρ . However, it is believed instead to be derived from an Indo-Iranian word meaning "white-yellow, pale"; in Sanskrit, this word's reflex was पाण्डर ''pāṇḍara'', which was derived from पुण्डरीक ''puṇḍárīka'' , then borrowed into Greek.Leopards may sometimes be confused with two other large spotted cats, the cheetah, with which it may co-exist in Africa, and the jaguar, a neotropical species that it does not naturally co-exist with. However, the patterns of spots in each are different: the cheetah has simple black spots, evenly spread; the jaguar has small spots inside the polygonal rosettes; while the leopard normally has rounder, smaller rosettes than those of the jaguar. The cheetah has longer legs and a thinner build that makes it look more streamlined and taller but less powerfully built than the leopard. The jaguar is more similar in build to the leopard but is generally larger in size and has a more muscular, bulky appearance.Since Carl Linnaeus published his description of a leopard in the ''Systema Naturae'' in 1758, as many as 27 leopard subspecies were subsequently described by naturalists from 1794 to 1956. Since 1996, according to DNA analysis carried out in the 1990s, only eight subspecies are considered valid. Later analysis revealed a ninth valid subspecies, the Arabian leopard. Because of limited sampling of African leopards, this number might be an underestimation.

The nine subspecies recognised by IUCN are:



A morphological analysis of characters of leopard skulls implies the validity of two more subspecies:
⤷ Anatolian leopard inhabits Western Turkey
⤷ Balochistan leopard inhabits Pakistan, and possibly also parts of Afghanistan and Iran

The following African leopard populations used to be considered subspecies until 1996:
⤷ Barbary leopard
⤷ Sinai leopard
⤷ Zanzibar leopard

The smallest leopard subspecies is the Arabian leopard. Adult females weigh as little as 18 kg . Large subspecies, in which males weigh up to 91 kg , are the Sri Lankan leopard and the Persian leopard. Such larger leopards inhabit areas which lack tigers and lions, so that leopards are at the top of the food chain with no competitive restriction from large prey.
A stalking leopard || Jhalana || Dec 2016
https://www.facebook.com/MohammedSalmanPics/ Leopard,Panthera pardus

Distribution

Leopards have the largest distribution of any wild cat, occurring widely in Africa as well as eastern and southern Asia, although populations have shown a declining trend and are fragmented outside of sub-Saharan Africa. Within sub-Saharan Africa, the species is still numerous and even thriving in marginal habitats where other large cats have disappeared. Populations in North Africa may be extinct. Data on their distribution in Asia are not consistent. Populations in southwest and central Asia are small and fragmented; in the northeast, they are critically endangered. In the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and China, leopards are still relatively abundant. Of the species as a whole, its numbers are greater than those of other ''Panthera'' species, all of which face more acute conservation concerns.

Leopards are exceptionally adaptable, although associated primarily with savanna and rainforest. Populations thrive anywhere in the species range where grasslands, woodlands, and riverine forests remain largely undisturbed. In the Russian Far East, they inhabit temperate forests where winter temperatures reach a low of −25 °C . They are equally adept surviving in some of the world's most humid rainforests and even semi-arid desert edges.

Leopards in west and central Asia try to avoid deserts, areas with long-duration snow cover and areas that are near urban development. In India, leopard populations sometimes live quite close to human settlements and even in semi-developed areas. Although occasionally adaptable to human disturbances, leopards require healthy prey populations and appropriate vegetative cover for hunting for prolonged survival and thus rarely linger in heavily developed areas. Due to the leopard's superlative stealthiness, people often remain unaware that big cats live in nearby areas.Since Carl Linnaeus published his description of a leopard in the ''Systema Naturae'' in 1758, as many as 27 leopard subspecies were subsequently described by naturalists from 1794 to 1956. Since 1996, according to DNA analysis carried out in the 1990s, only eight subspecies are considered valid. Later analysis revealed a ninth valid subspecies, the Arabian leopard. Because of limited sampling of African leopards, this number might be an underestimation.

The nine subspecies recognised by IUCN are:



A morphological analysis of characters of leopard skulls implies the validity of two more subspecies:
⤷ Anatolian leopard inhabits Western Turkey
⤷ Balochistan leopard inhabits Pakistan, and possibly also parts of Afghanistan and Iran

The following African leopard populations used to be considered subspecies until 1996:
⤷ Barbary leopard
⤷ Sinai leopard
⤷ Zanzibar leopard

The smallest leopard subspecies is the Arabian leopard. Adult females weigh as little as 18 kg . Large subspecies, in which males weigh up to 91 kg , are the Sri Lankan leopard and the Persian leopard. Such larger leopards inhabit areas which lack tigers and lions, so that leopards are at the top of the food chain with no competitive restriction from large prey.
And the leopard emerges || Kabini || Jan 2017
https://www.facebook.com/MohammedSalmanPics/ Leopard,Panthera pardus

Behavior

Leopards are elusive, solitary and largely nocturnal. They have primarily been studied in open savanna habitats, which may have biased common descriptions. Activity level varies depending on the habitat and the type of prey that they hunt. Radio-tracking and scat analysis in West Africa showed that rainforest leopards are more likely to be diurnal and crepuscular. Forest leopards are also more specialised in prey selection and exhibit seasonal differences in activity patterns.

Leopards are known for their ability in climbing, and have been observed resting on tree branches during the day, dragging their kills up trees and hanging them there, and descending from trees headfirst. They are powerful swimmers, although are not as disposed to swimming as some other big cats, such as the tiger. They are very agile, and can run at over 58 kilometres per hour , leap over 6 metres horizontally, and jump up to 3 metres vertically. They produce a number of vocalizations, including grunts, roars, growls, meows, and purrs.Home ranges of male leopards vary between 30 km2 and 78 km2 , and of females between 15 to 16 km2 . Virtually all sources suggest that males do have larger home ranges. There seems to be little or no overlap in territory among males, although overlap exists between the sexes; one radio-collar analysis in the Ivory Coast found a female home range completely enclosed within a male's.

Research in a conservation area in Kenya showed similar territory sizes and sex differential: 32.8 km2 average ranges for males, and 14 km2 for females.

In Nepal, somewhat larger male ranges have been found at about 48 km2 , while female ranges at 17 km2 ; female home ranges decreased to 5 to 7 km2 when young cubs were present, while the sexual difference in range size seemed to be in positive proportion to overall increase.

Studies of leopard home range size have tended to focus on protected areas, which may have led to skewed data; as of the mid-1980s, only 13% of the leopard range actually fell within a protected area. However, significant variations in the size of home ranges have been suggested across the leopard's range. Research in Namibia that focused on spatial ecology in farmlands outside of protected areas revealed ranges that were consistently above 100 km2 with some more than 300 km2 . Admitting that their data were at odds with others, the researchers found little or no sexual variation in the size of territories.

Aggressive encounters have been observed. Two of five males studied over a period of a year at a game reserve in South Africa died, both violently. One was initially wounded in a male–male territorial battle over a carcass; taken in by researchers, it was released after a successful convalescence only to be killed by a different male a few months later. A second was killed by another predator, possibly a spotted hyena. A third of the five was badly wounded in intraspecific fighting, but recovered.Depending on the region, leopards may mate all year round. In Manchuria and Siberia, they mate during January and February. The estrous cycle lasts about 46 days and the female usually is in heat for 6–7 days. Gestation lasts for 90 to 105 days. Cubs are usually born in a litter of 2–4 cubs. Mortality of cubs is estimated at 41–50% during the first year.

Females give birth in a cave, crevice among boulders, hollow tree, or thicket to make a den. Cubs are born with closed eyes, which open four to nine days after birth. The fur of the young tends to be longer and thicker than that of adults. Their pelage is also more gray in colour with less defined spots. Around three months of age, the young begin to follow the mother on hunts. At one year of age, leopard young can probably fend for themselves, but remain with the mother for 18–24 months.

The average typical life span of a leopard is between 12 and 17 years. The oldest recorded Spotted Leopard was a female named Roxanne living in captivity at McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary in The Acreage, Palm Beach County, Florida. She died August 8, 2014 at the age of 24 years, 2 months and 13 days. This has been verified by the Guinness World Records. Previously, the oldest recorded Leopard was a female named Bertie living in captivity in Warsaw Zoo. She died in December 2010 at the age of 24. The oldest recorded male Leopard was Cezar, who reached the age of 23. He also lived at Warsaw Zoo and was Bertie's lifelong companion.
Leopard_Coming_Down This Leopard is sitting above my head on a tree while I am on Jeep at Kabini Reserve Forest In India. Thereafter, came down from the tree who was just about 20 feet from my Lens. Leopard,Panthera pardus

Habitat

Leopards have the largest distribution of any wild cat, occurring widely in Africa as well as eastern and southern Asia, although populations have shown a declining trend and are fragmented outside of sub-Saharan Africa. Within sub-Saharan Africa, the species is still numerous and even thriving in marginal habitats where other large cats have disappeared. Populations in North Africa may be extinct. Data on their distribution in Asia are not consistent. Populations in southwest and central Asia are small and fragmented; in the northeast, they are critically endangered. In the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and China, leopards are still relatively abundant. Of the species as a whole, its numbers are greater than those of other ''Panthera'' species, all of which face more acute conservation concerns.

Leopards are exceptionally adaptable, although associated primarily with savanna and rainforest. Populations thrive anywhere in the species range where grasslands, woodlands, and riverine forests remain largely undisturbed. In the Russian Far East, they inhabit temperate forests where winter temperatures reach a low of −25 °C . They are equally adept surviving in some of the world's most humid rainforests and even semi-arid desert edges.

Leopards in west and central Asia try to avoid deserts, areas with long-duration snow cover and areas that are near urban development. In India, leopard populations sometimes live quite close to human settlements and even in semi-developed areas. Although occasionally adaptable to human disturbances, leopards require healthy prey populations and appropriate vegetative cover for hunting for prolonged survival and thus rarely linger in heavily developed areas. Due to the leopard's superlative stealthiness, people often remain unaware that big cats live in nearby areas.Leopards are elusive, solitary and largely nocturnal. They have primarily been studied in open savanna habitats, which may have biased common descriptions. Activity level varies depending on the habitat and the type of prey that they hunt. Radio-tracking and scat analysis in West Africa showed that rainforest leopards are more likely to be diurnal and crepuscular. Forest leopards are also more specialised in prey selection and exhibit seasonal differences in activity patterns.

Leopards are known for their ability in climbing, and have been observed resting on tree branches during the day, dragging their kills up trees and hanging them there, and descending from trees headfirst. They are powerful swimmers, although are not as disposed to swimming as some other big cats, such as the tiger. They are very agile, and can run at over 58 kilometres per hour , leap over 6 metres horizontally, and jump up to 3 metres vertically. They produce a number of vocalizations, including grunts, roars, growls, meows, and purrs.
Leopard on a tree || Lakkavalli, Bhadra || Jan 2019
https://www.facebook.com/MohammedSalmanPics/ Leopard,Panthera pardus

Reproduction

Depending on the region, leopards may mate all year round. In Manchuria and Siberia, they mate during January and February. The estrous cycle lasts about 46 days and the female usually is in heat for 6–7 days. Gestation lasts for 90 to 105 days. Cubs are usually born in a litter of 2–4 cubs. Mortality of cubs is estimated at 41–50% during the first year.

Females give birth in a cave, crevice among boulders, hollow tree, or thicket to make a den. Cubs are born with closed eyes, which open four to nine days after birth. The fur of the young tends to be longer and thicker than that of adults. Their pelage is also more gray in colour with less defined spots. Around three months of age, the young begin to follow the mother on hunts. At one year of age, leopard young can probably fend for themselves, but remain with the mother for 18–24 months.

The average typical life span of a leopard is between 12 and 17 years. The oldest recorded Spotted Leopard was a female named Roxanne living in captivity at McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary in The Acreage, Palm Beach County, Florida. She died August 8, 2014 at the age of 24 years, 2 months and 13 days. This has been verified by the Guinness World Records. Previously, the oldest recorded Leopard was a female named Bertie living in captivity in Warsaw Zoo. She died in December 2010 at the age of 24. The oldest recorded male Leopard was Cezar, who reached the age of 23. He also lived at Warsaw Zoo and was Bertie's lifelong companion.
Leopard head-on || Jhalana || June 2019
https://www.facebook.com/MohammedSalmanPics/ Leopard,Panthera pardus

Food

Leopards are versatile, opportunistic hunters, and have a very broad diet. They feed on a greater diversity of prey than other members of the ''Panthera'' genus, and are reported to eat anything from dung beetles to common elands, though medium-sized prey species in the 20–80 kg range are usually taken. The largest prey reported killed by a leopard was a 900 kg male eland. although leopards generally do not prey on such large animals. Their diet consists mostly of ungulates, followed by primates, primarily monkeys of various species, including the Vervet monkey. However, they will also opportunistically eat rodents, reptiles, amphibians, insects, birds , fish and sometimes smaller predators . In at least one instance, a leopard has predated a sub-adult Nile crocodile that was crossing over land. Leopards are the only natural predators of adult chimpanzees and gorillas, although the cat may sometimes choose to avoid these as they are potentially hazardous prey, especially large male silverback gorillas. They stalk their prey silently, pounce on it at the last minute, and strangle its throat with a quick bite. In Africa, mid-sized antelopes provide a majority of their prey, especially impala and Thomson's gazelles.

In the open savanna of Tsavo National Park, they kill most of their prey while hunting between sunset and sunrise. In Kruger National Park, males and females with cubs are more active at night. At least 92 prey species have been documented in their diet. They focus their hunting activity on locally abundant medium-sized ungulate species in the 20 to 80 kg range, while opportunistically taking other prey. Analysis of leopard scats found that 67% contained ungulate remains, of which 60% were impala, the most abundant antelope, with adult weights of 40 to 60 kg . Small mammal remains were found most often in scats of sub-adult leopards, especially females. Average daily consumption rates was estimated at 3.5 kg for adult males and 2.8 kg for females.

In Asia, the leopard primarily preys on deer such as chitals and muntjacs, as well as various Asian antelopes and ibex. Prey preference estimates in southern India showed that the most favored prey of the leopard were chitals. A study at the Wolong Reserve in China revealed how adaptable their hunting behaviour is. Over the course of seven years, the vegetative cover receded, and the animals opportunistically shifted from primarily consuming tufted deer to pursuing bamboo rats and other smaller prey.

They select their prey focusing on small herds, dense habitat, and low risk of injury, preferring prey weights of 10 to 40 kg such as impala, chital, bushbuck, and common duiker with an average body weight of 25 kg .

In search of safety, leopards often stash their young or recent kills high up in a tree, which can be a great feat of strength considering that they may be carrying prey heavier than themselves in their mouth while they climb vertically. One leopard was seen to haul a young giraffe, estimated to weigh up to 125 kg , more than twice the weight of the cat, up 5.7 m into a tree.
Lone man standing The light was fading, safari coming to an end, all hopes lost and yet, out of nowhere appeared the ghost of the jungle. He stared at us silently, as we held our breath, and within a few seconds vanished into the undergrowth.
A magical sighting.

Leopard
Panthera pardus
Nagarhole National Park India,Kabini,Leopard,Nagarhole,Nikon D7200,Panthera pardus,Sigma 50-500

Evolution

Fossils of early leopard ancestors have been found in East Africa and South Asia from the Pleistocene of 2 to 3.5 Ma. The modern leopard is suggested to have evolved in Africa 470,000–825,000 years ago and radiated across Asia 170,000–300,000 years ago.

In Europe, the leopard is known at least since the Pleistocene. Fossil leopard bones and teeth dating from the Pliocene were found in Perrier in France, northeast of London, and in Valdarno in Italy. At 40 sites in Europe fossil bones and dental remains of leopards dating from the Pleistocene were excavated mostly in loess and caves. The sites of these fossil records range from near Lisbon, near Gibraltar, and Santander Province in northern Spain to several sites in France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Germany, in the north up to Derby in England, in the east to Přerov in the Czech Republic, and the Baranya in southern Hungary. The Pleistocene leopards of Europe can be divided into four subsequent subspecies. The first European leopard subspecies ''P. p. begoueni'' is known since the beginning of the early Pleistocene and was replaced about 600,000 years ago by ''P. p. sickenbergi'', which in turn was replaced by ''P. p. antiqua'' at around 300,000 years ago. The last form, the Late Pleistocene Ice Age leopard appeared at the beginning of the Late Pleistocene and survived until about 24,000 years ago in large parts of Europe.
Leopard || Jhalana || Dec 2016.
ƒ/6.3, ISO 1600, 1/800s @ 400mm. Leopard,Panthera pardus

Cultural

* The 1938 film ''Bringing up Baby'' prominently features a pet leopard.
⤷  Rudyard Kipling's novel The Jungle Book features a black leopard named Bagheera.
⤷  In Disney's ''Tarzan'', the villain Sabor is a leopard. She kills both Tarzan's biological parents and Kala's first child, before an adult Tarzan kills her in a fierce fight. She is voiced by Frank Welker, using sounds of big cats such as leopards, lions, tigers, jaguars, cougars.
⤷  The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells features a human-leopard hybrid known as Leopard-Man, and the film The Island of Dr. Moreau features a human-leopard hybrid named Lo-Mai.
⤷  The mascot of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa was an anthropomorphic leopard called Zakumi.

References:

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