Leopards are the most common large cats in Africa - so it is ironic that it is also the cat that is the most difficult to spot when you are in the African bush.
This is due to the fact that they are rather shy, secretive and mainly nocturnal.
These cats are lucky to be largely free from persecution and in game reserves and they have grown completely accustomed to vehicles.Do not expect them too simply stroll across the road however.
These animals are very agile climbers and pound for pound, the strongest climber of the large cats. To spot them you will usually need a pair of binoculars and scan the tree tops on the horizon.
As you look for them in trees, you may notice them often draped along thick tree limbs in an effort to escape the midday heat.
You my also be lucky enough to see them feasting on a kill they dragged aloft into a tree. They do this to keep their prize safe from scavengers such as hyenas.
They are very solitary animals. They defend territories against other
leopards of the same sex but the territories of males overlap those of
They do seem to tolerate a certain level of overlap with their neighbors where rivals appear to avoid each other in some sort of "time-sharing system".
They advertise occupation of a territory by marking it with urine and faeces, clawing the bark of trees and by vocal signals.
This African animal can run at about 35 miles per hour.
These cats have astonishing powers of navigation and homing.
This capacity that has hampered attempts to relocate them away from human settlement when they become stock raiders.
They have a distinctive contact call that sounds remarkably like a wood saw.
This call allows territorial neighbors to keep away from each other, and males and females to find each other.
These animals growl when aggressive and spit and snarl when they feel threatened. Like your domestic house cat, they purr when the feel content.
In the Kruger national park their diet consists of:
-Burchells zebra 16%,
and porcupine 13%.
One reason behind their success lies in their diet, which spans a very wide range.
They eat almost any vertebrate, including:
They prefer medium-sized antelope like impalas.
It is well known they eat more predators than do other carnivores, particularly jackals.
The usual hunting technique is classically feline. When it sights a potential target it stalks forward with head low and legs bent making clever use of cover.
This African animal will stalk a target over distances of a few hundred meters, or wait in ambush if the target moves towards it.
Once it is within a range of about 10 meters, this cat dashes forward and uses the sharp, hooked claws of each forepaw to kill their prey.
The killing bite is directed at the nape of the neck or at the throat. Small prey such as mice, rats and small birds are simply swatted to death with a single swipe of a paw.
Guts of large prey are pulled out and discarded before it begins consuming its meals. It uses its incisor teeth to pluck birds and furry mammals such as rabbits.
Where there are many scavengers around the prey is carried up into a tree and wedged among the branches.
Their strength is demonstrated by their ability to carry carcasses weighing more than 50 kg up vertical tree trunks.
They readily eat rotten meat and will feed on a stored carcass for up to four days.
They scavenge if they get the chance and can steal kills from cheetahs, lone hyenas and any of the smaller carnivores.
A female on heat attracts males by the smell of her urine.
The male and
female may stay together for several days, even sharing kills, and they
mate repeatedly over a few days.
Cubs are born in heavy cover or in caves. They first accompany their mothers on hunts at four months and usually make their first kills at five months.
These African animals are surprisingly adaptable and resilient in the face of human encroachment.
They have long been preyed upon by man for their beautiful fur coat which has been used for clothing. They are one of the hunters big five and eco-tourism big seven.
Red Data book: Rare