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Tiger, Ranthambore Tiger Reserve

Leopard

LeopardThe leopard (Panthera pardus) is a member of the cat family (Felidae). The leopard's coat has a background color of pale, cream-yellow on its underside that darkens slightly to an orange-brown on its back. Solid black spots adorn its limbs and head, smaller and denser than the golden, umber-centered rosettes that cover its back and sides. The leopard's tale has irregular patches that, at the tip of the tale, become dark-ringed bands.

Zoological name: Panthera pardus

Species: Panthera pardus is a member of the pantherine lineage, which also includes P. leo (lion), P. tigris (tiger), P. onca (jaguar), Neofelis nebulosa (clouded leopard), and Uncia uncia (snow leopard). Fossils of their most recent common ancestor have yet to be identified, but mitochondrial gene sequence data suggest that species divergence began 6 million years ago. Phylogenetic analyses of the subspecies of P. pardus indicate an African origin, which corroborates the paleontological evidence. The earliest record of P. pardus is from Laetoli, Tanzania, with a date of roughly 3.8 million years before present. By 900,000 years ago, P. pardus reached Eurasia.

Presence on the planet: Pantera pardus could at one time be found from British Isles to Japan and throughout most of Asia. Today they can still be found in Africa, except for the true deserts of Sahara and Kalahari, and some parts of Asia such as Sri Lanka. Leopards are more common in Eastern and Central Africa. Conversely, they are rare in Western and Northern Africa and most of Asia.

Habitat: Leopards live in highly variable habitats. They feel just as secure in swampy tropical forests as in rugged mountains. They live in lowland forests, mountains, grasslands, brush country, and deserts. A corpse of a leopard was once found at an elevation of 5,630 meters on Kilimanjaro, and not frozen into the ice as some people had suggested.

Physical appearance: The leopard's coat has a background color of pale, cream-yellow on its underside that darkens slightly to an orange-brown on its back. Solid black spots adorn its limbs and head, smaller and denser than the golden, umber-centered rosettes that cover its back and sides. The leopard's tale has irregular patches that, at the tip of the tale, become dark-ringed bands.

Leopard Diet: Leopards are opportunistic hunters. They will eat just about anything. Their diet consists of monkeys, rodents, reptiles, amphibians, birds, fish, wild pigs, and ungulates. It stalks its prey silently and at the last minute pounces on its prey and cuts its throat with a quick bite. It hunts during the day to avoid contact with lions and hyenas, who hunt mainly at night. When it kills animals such as gazelle, it carries them up into the trees to eat it. Leopards are capable of carrying animals up to twice their own weight into the trees.

Reproduction & Offspring: Depending on the region, leopards may mate all year round (India and Africa) or seasonally during January to February (Manchuria and Siberia). The estrous cycle lasts about 46 days and the female usually isin heat for 6-7 days. Cubs are usually born in a litter of 2-3, but infant mortality is high and mothers are not commonly seen with more than 1-2 cubs. The pregnant females find a cave, crevice among boulders, hollow tree, or thicket to give birth and make a den. Cubs open their eyes after a period of 10 days. The fur of the young tends to be longer and thicker than that of adults. Their pelage is also more gray in color with less defined spots. Around 3 months the infants begin to follow the mother out on hunts. At one year of age leopard young can probably fend for themselves but they remain with the mother for 18-24 months.

Conservation status: Hunting for their beautifully spotted fur, habitat encroachment, and hunting have taken their toll on the leoaprd, making many subspecies endangered. They are killed by farmers because they pose a threat to their livestock. They can be easily poisoned because they feed on carrion.

The status of P. pardus ranges from endangered to critically endangered to threatened depending on the geographic region. Even though these cats are highly adaptable, they still face many problems. These include habitat destruction, being hunted as trophies and for their fur, and persecution as killers. Illegal hunting of leopards for their fur became so common in the 1960s that as many as 50,000 skins were marked annually.
IUCN Lists as Critically Endangered

Leopard Life Span: 12-17 years
The royal coat colour!!

They have a very short and sleek coat. Their color varies from light tawny to deep rusty yellow, with a lighter underside. They have dark spots on their face, head, throat, chest, and legs. The rest of their body is covered in "rosettes". Leopards can also be totally black. Leopards can also be all black, a condition known as "melanism", which is common amongst the spotted cats. Black leopards, also known as panthers, are not a separate species, but the same species of leopard. The spots can still be seen, as dark black rosettes on a lighter dark brown background. Melanistic leopards and normal leopards have been known to occur in the same litter. Black leopards are more common in areas with denser trees. The leopard's dark rosettes help it to blend into the foliage while stalking their prey. Like human fingerprints, each individual leopard's spots are unique.


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