Leopards - Panthera pardus
The Leopard (Panthera pardus) is a superb predator. It has a long, well-muscled body with thick, short limbs, and broad, powerful paws. Its powerful jaws enable it to kill and dismember prey, while particularly long, sensitive whiskers allow the Leopard to ‘feel’ its way as it hunts at night. |
Male leopards can reach weight of over 150 pounds and height of about 2 1/2 feet at the shoulder. The female is smaller. At a burst, leopards can reach speed of over 30 mph. In the wild, they can have an average life span of 12 to 15 years.
The leopard's coat is unique to each animal and can be separately identified by its spot pattern. Its distinctive black spots contrast with the pale background coat color and the white underparts. Leopards have an exceptionally large range, occurring throughout Africa and Asia.
Nine subspecies of Leopards are identified, they include the nominate subspecies, P. p. pardus, the Arabian, the Persian, the Javan, the Sri Lankan, the Indian, the Indochinese, the North Chinese and the Amur Leopard.
Although the Leopard is an amazingly adaptable species that has an extensive range, the future of this big cat is far from certain, and several subspecies are on the verge of extinction.
The major threats to the Leopard are habitat conversion for agriculture and development, and persecution by humans. Across Asia, this species is also threatened by habitat destruction and fragmentation due to logging.
The Snow (Amur) Leopard (Panthera uncia), has a beautiful, thick white, yellowish or soft gray coat with ringed spots of black on brown. This markings help camouflage it from their prey. In addition to their thick coats, they have a heavy fur-lined tails and paws.
Snow Leopards measure about 2 feet at the shoulder and can weigh up to about 150 pounds for a big male but generally their weight is about 80 to 120 pounds. They generally hunt wild sheep and goats but are also known to eat smaller animals like rodents, hares and game birds. Snow leopards prefer to inhabit steep cliff areas, rocky outcrops and ravines. Such habitats provide them with the camouflage they need to ambush unsuspecting prey.
An estimated 3,500 to 7,000 snow leopards are left in the wild, with 600 - 700 in zoos around the world. Exact numbers in the wild have not been determined due to the snow leopard’s elusive nature. Mostly active at dawn and dusk, snow leopards are rarely seen in the wild. Unlike other big cats, snow leopards are unable to roar. Solitary in nature, they pair only during the breeding season.
Snow leopards are found at altitudes between 10,000 to 17,000 feet in the high, rugged mountains of Central Asia. Their range spans from Afghanistan to Kazakstan and Russia in the north to India and China in the east. China contains about 60% of snow leopard habitat. They have already disappeared from certain parts of Mongolia, which is part of their historic range.
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