Tuesday, March 17

Leopard in the Night...!

Please Click Here To Know More About Leopards


Shalik Jogwe said...


One of the most Shy Predator is also present in Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve. Around 22 in number, this Carnivore is seen frequently in Tadoba but its possible only with the LUCK..!

The leopard (IPA /lɛpə(r)d/; Panthera pardus) is a member of the Felidae family and the smallest of the four "big cats" in the genus Panthera; the other three are the tiger, lion and jaguar. Once distributed across southern Asia and Africa, from Korea to South Africa, the leopard's range of distribution has decreased radically over time due to hunting and loss of habitat, and the leopard now chiefly occurs in sub-Saharan Africa. There are fragmented populations in Pakistan, India, Indochina, Malaysia, and China. Due to the loss of range and continual declines in population, the cat has been downgraded to "Near Threatened" species; its numbers are greater than that of the other Panthera species, all of which face more acute conservation concerns.

The leopard has relatively short legs and a long body, with a large skull. Physically, it most closely resembles the jaguar, although it is usually smaller and of slighter build. Its fur is marked with rosettes which lack internal spots, unlike those of the jaguar. Leopards that are melanistic, either completely black or very dark in coloration, are one of the big cats known colloquially as black panthers.

The species' success in the wild owes in part to its opportunistic hunting behaviour, its adaptability to a variety of habitats and its ability to move at up to approximately 60 kilometres (37 miles) an hour. The leopard consumes virtually any animal it can hunt down and catch. Its preferred habitat ranges from rainforest to desert terrains. Its ecological role and status resembles that of the similarly-sized cougar in the Americas.


In antiquity, it was believed that a leopard was a hybrid of a lion and a panther, as is reflected in its name, a Greek portmanteau derived from λέων léon ("lion") and πάρδος párdos ("male panther"), the latter related to Sanskrit पृदाकु pṝdāku ("snake, tiger, panther").

A panther can be any of several species of large felid; in North America, the term refers to cougars; in South America, jaguars; and everywhere else, it refers to leopards.

Felis pardus was one of the many species described in Linnaeus's 18th-century work, Systema Naturae.

The generic component of its modern scientific designation, Panthera pardus, is derived from Latin via Greek πάνθηρ pánthēr. A folk etymology held that it was a compound of παν pan ("all") and θηρ ("beast"). However, it is believed instead to derive from an Indo-Iranian word meaning "whitish-yellow, pale"; in Sanskrit, this word's reflex was पाण्डर pāṇḍara, from which was derived पुण्डरीक puṇḍárīka ("tiger", among other things), then borrowed into Greek.


Like all of the feline family, the Panthera genus has been subject to much alteration and debate and the exact relations between the four species (as well as the clouded leopard and snow leopard) have not been effectively resolved. DNA evidence shows that the lion, tiger, leopard, jaguar, snow leopard, and clouded leopard share a common ancestor nearly 11 million years ago (Ma)—the basal divergence amongst the Felidae family. The fossil record points to the emergence of Panthera just two to 3.8 million years ago.

In a mitochondrial DNA study, Yu and Zhang (2005) suggest that the leopard is most closely related to the snow leopard, and go so far as placing the latter as a fifth species of Panthera, P. uncia. Canonical works, such as the Mammal Species of the World, continue to list the snow leopard as the only species within its genus, Uncia uncia, but this could change; Johnson et al. (2006) support the placement of the snow leopard within Panthera. They suggest, however, that the snow leopard is most closely aligned with the tiger. The leopard is held to have diverged from the Panthera lineage subsequent to these two species, but before the lion and jaguar. Older research has tended to suggest that the leopard is most closely related to the lion and/or the jaguar. As recently as 2001, it was held to have split along with the lion in a phylogenetic analysis of chemical secretions amongst cats.

Panthera is believed to have emerged in Asia, with ancestors of the leopard and other cats subsequently migrating into Africa. Fossil evidence of leopard ancestors has been found from 2 to 3.5 Ma. These Pleistocene specimens resemble primitive jaguars. The modern leopard type is suggested to have evolved in Africa 470,000–825,000 years ago and radiated across Asia 170,000–300,000 years ago.


As many as 27 leopard subspecies were once suggested, the number growing from the time of Linnaeus in the 18th century to that of Reginald Pocock in the early 20th. In 1996, Miththapala et al. revised this downward to just eight subspecies based on DNA analysis. Uphyrina et al. would concur in 2001 but split out a ninth separately, the Arabian leopard (P. pardus nimr). The latter researchers note the number might be an underestimation because of limited sampling of African leopards. Their list as follows:

1. Indo-Chinese leopard (P. pardus delacouri) in Mainland Southeast Asia.
2. Indian leopard (P. pardus fusca) in India, southeastern Nepal, and northern Bangladesh.
3. North Chinese leopard (P. pardus japonensis) in China.
4. Sri Lankan leopard (P. pardus kotiya) in Sri Lanka.
5. Javan leopard (P. pardus melas) in Java.
6. Amur leopard (P. pardus orientalis) in the Russian Far East, northern China, and Korea.
7. African leopard (P. pardus pardus) in Africa.
8. Persian leopard or Iranian leopard (P. pardus saxicolor) in Southwest Asia.
9. Arabian leopard (P. pardus nimr) in Arabian Peninsula.
10. Zanzibar leopard (Panthera pardus adersi) endemic to Unguja Island in the Zanzibar archipelago.

Older taxonomic divisions:

Included in the African leopard (P. pardus pardus):

*Barbary leopard (P. pardus panthera)
*Cape leopard (P. pardus melanotica)
*Central African leopard (P. pardus shortridgei)
*Congo leopard (P. pardus ituriensis)
*East African leopard (P. pardus suahelica)
*Eritrean leopard (P. pardus antinorii)
*Somalian leopard (P. pardus nanopardus)
*Ugandan leopard (P. pardus chui)
*West African leopard (P. pardus reichinowi)
*West African forest leopard (P. pardus leopardus)
*Zanzibar leopard (P. pardus adersi)

Included in the Persian leopard (P. pardus saxicolor):

*Anatolian leopard (P. pardus tulliana)
*Baluchistan leopard (P. pardus sindica)
*Caucasus leopard (P. pardus ciscaucasica)
*Central Persian leopard (P. pardus dathei)
*Sinai leopard (P. pardus jarvisi)

Included in the Indian leopard (P. pardus fusca):

*Kashmir leopard (P. pardus millardi)
*Nepal leopard (P. pardus pernigra

Physical characteristics:

The leopard is an agile and stealthy predator. Although smaller than the other members of the Panthera genus, the leopard is still able to take large prey given a massive skull that well utilizes powerful jaw muscles. Its body is comparatively long for a cat and its legs are short. Head and body length is between 90 and 190 cm (35 and 75 in), the tail reaches 60 to 110 cm (24 to 43 in). Shoulder height is 45 to 80 cm (18-31 in). Males are about 30% larger than females, weighing 37 to 91 kg (82 to 200 lbs) compared to 28 to 60 kg (62 to 132 lbs) for females. The larger-bodied populations of leopard (such as the Javan leopard and the leopards from the forested mountains and tropical rainforests of Africa) are generally found in areas isolated from competing large predators, especially from dominant big cats like lions and tigers.

One of many spotted cats, a leopard may be mistaken for a cheetah or a jaguar. The leopard has rosettes rather than cheetah's simple spots, but they lack internal spots, unlike the jaguar. The leopard is larger and less lanky than the cheetah but smaller than the jaguar. The leopard's black, irregular rosettes serve as camouflage. They are circular in East Africa but tend to be square-shaped in southern Africa.

Leopards have been reported to reach 21 years of age in captivity.

Biology and behavior:

The leopard is known for its ability in climbing, and it has been observed resting on tree branches during the day and descending from trees headfirst. It is a powerful swimmer, although, not as strong as some other big cats, such as the tiger. The leopard is also very agile, and can run over sixty kilometers an hour, leap over six metres and jump up to three metres vertically. The leopard is primarily a nocturnal creature, and many of its operations are done by night. However, there have been recorded instances of leopards hunting during the light, especially when the sky is overcast. It spends much of its day resting and sleeping, up in the branches of trees, underneath rocks or in the grass.

Diet and hunting:

Leopards are opportunistic hunters. Although mid-sized animals are preferred, the leopard will eat anything from dung beetles to 900 kg (1,984 lb) male giant elands. Their diet consists mostly of ungulates and monkeys, but rodents, reptiles, amphibians, birds and fish are also eaten. In Africa, mid-sized antelopes provide a majority of the leopard's prey, especially impala and Thomson's gazelles. In Asia the leopard 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 favoured prey of the leopard was the chital. A study at the Wolong Reserve in China revealed how adaptable the leopard's hunting behaviour is: over the course of seven years the vegetative cover receded, and the animals opportunistically shifted from primarily consuming tufted deer to instead pursuing bamboo rats and other smaller prey.

Leopard resting on a treeThe leopard stalks its prey silently and at the last minute pounces on its prey and strangles its throat with a quick bite. Leopards often hide their kills in dense vegetation or take them up trees, and are capable of carrying animals up to three times their own weight this way. One survey of nearly 30 research papers found preferred prey weights of 10 to 40 kg (22-88 lb), with 25 kg (55 lb) most preferred. Along with impala and chital, a preference for bushbuck and common duiker was found. Other prey selection factors include a preference for prey in small herds, in dense habitat, and those that afford the predator a low risk of injury.

Reproduction and life cycle:

A male may follow a female who catches his attention. Eventually, a fight for reproductive rights may take place. Depending on the region, leopards may mate all year round (Asia and Africa) or seasonally during January to February (Manchuria and Siberia). The estrous cycle lasts about 46 days and the female usually is in heat for 6–7 days. Gestation lasts for 90-105 days. Cubs are usually born in a litter of 2–4, but infant mortality is high and usually no more than 1–2 cubs survive beyond their infancy.

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 three 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.

Social structure and home range:

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. In their IUCN survey of the literature, Nowell and Jackson suggest male home territories vary between 30–78 square kilometers (km2), but just 15–16 km2 for females. Research in a conservation area in Kenya shows similar territory sizes and sex differential: 32.8 km2 ranges for males, on average, and 14 km2 for females. In Nepal, somewhat larger male ranges have been found at about 48 km2, while female ranges are in-keeping with other research, at 17 km2; female home territories were seen to decrease to just five to seven km2 when young cubs were present, while the sexual difference in range size seemed to be in positive proportion to overall increase. However, significant variations in size of home territories have been suggested across the leopard's range. In Namibia, for instance, research that focussed on spatial ecology in farmlands outside of protected areas found ranges that were consistently above 100 km2, with some more than 300 km2; admitting that their data were at odds with others', the researchers also suggested little or no sexual variation in the size of territories. Virtually all sources suggest that males do have larger ranges. There seems to be little or no overlap in territory amongst 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.

The leopard is solitary and, aside from mating, interactions between individuals appear to be infrequent. Aggressive encounters have been observed, however. 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.


Distribution and habitat:
Data from 1996 found that the leopard has the largest distribution of any wild cat, occurring most in certain parts of southern Asia and widely in eastern and central Africa, although populations before and since have shown a declining trend and are fragmented outside of subsaharan Africa. The IUCN notes that within sub-Saharan Africa the species is "still numerous and even thriving in marginal habitats" where other large cats have disappeared, but that populations in North Africa may be extinct. In Asia, data on distribution is not consistent: populations in Southwest and Central Asia are small and fragmented; in the northeast portion of the range, they are critically endangered; but in the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and China, the leopard is still relatively abundant.

Leopards live mainly in grasslands, woodlands and riverside forests. The animal has primarily been studied in open savannah habitats, which may have biased common descriptions. It is generally considered nocturnal, for instance, but radio-tracking and scat analysis in West Africa has found that rainforest leopards are more likely to be diurnal and crepuscular. Forest leopards are also more specialized in prey selection and exhibit seasonal differences in activity patterns. While associated with the savanna and rainforest, the leopard is exceptionally adaptable: in the Russian Far East, the animal inhabits temperate forests where winter temperatures reach a low of –25 °C.

Ecological role:
Because of their wide habitat range, leopards must compete for food and safety with other large predators such as lions, tigers, spotted hyenas and wild dogs. These competitors sometimes may steal the leopard's kill or devour its young. A single lion or tiger is capable of killing an adult leopard. Leopards have adapted to live alongside these other predators by hunting at different times of the day, and by avoiding areas frequented by them. In search of safety, the leopard will often stash its young or a recent kill high up in a tree. Lions are occasionally successful in climbing trees and fetching leopard kills, and if motivated, an adult tiger might also scale a tree to acquire food.

Nowell and Jackson note that resource portioning occurs where the leopard shares range with the lion or tiger: the leopard tends to take smaller prey (usually less than 75 kg) where its large feline cousins are present. One tropical forest study suggests that leopards do not always avoid the larger cats by hunting at different times. With relatively abundant prey, tigers and leopards were seen to successfully coexist without competitive exclusion or inter-species dominance hierarchies that may be more common to the savanna.

Leopards and humans:

Leopards have been known to humans since antiquity and have featured in the art, mythology and folklore of many countries where they have historically occurred, such as ancient Greece, Persia and Rome, as well as some where they have not existed since for several millenniums, such as in England. The modern use of the leopard as an emblem for sport or a coat of arms is much more restricted to Africa, though numerous products worldwide have used the name.

Leopards and humans have many relations, involving tourism, heraldry and modern culture. Leopard domestication has also been recorded - several leopards were kept in a menagerie established by King John at the Tower of London in the 13th century; in around 1235 three of these animals were given to Henry III by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II.


Despite being predators of man's hominid ancestors, most leopards avoid humans. Still, people are occasionally targeted as prey. Most healthy leopards prefer wild prey to humans, but injured, sickly or struggling cats with a shortage of regular prey often turn to hunting people and may become habituated to it. In extreme cases, both in India, a leopard dubbed "the Leopard of Rudraprayag" may have killed over 125 people; "Panar Leopard" killed over 400 after injury by a poacher making it unable to hunt normal prey. The "Leopard of Rudraprayag" and the "Panar Leopard" were killed by hunter Jim Corbett. Man-eating leopards are considered bold by feline standards and commonly enter human settlements for prey, more so than lions and tigers. Kenneth Anderson, who had first hand experience with many man-eating leopards, described them as far more threatening than tigers:

Although examples of such animals are comparatively rare, when they do occur they depict the panther [leopard] as an engine of destruction quite equal to his far larger cousin, the tiger. Because of his smaller size he can conceal himself in places impossible to a tiger, his need for water is far less, and in veritable demoniac cunning and daring, coupled with the uncanny sense of self preservation and stealthy disappearance when danger threatens, he has no equal...

—Nine Man-Eaters and One Rogue, Chapter II The Spotted Devil of Gummalapur

Because they can subsist on small prey and are less dependent on large prey, leopards are less likely to turn to man-eating than either lions or tigers. However, leopards might be attracted to human settlements by livestock or pets, especially dogs, and they may resort to the eating of humans should conditions demand it, and no other food is available.

indranil said...

Dear Mr.Jogwe,
I appreciate the efforts you have taken to make Tadoba one of the most renowned reserves in India.
I saw a leopard in Moharli yesterday for around 15 mins.It was one of the rarest sights I have ever had.Simply beautiful.Thought I should share this experience.