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Find, identify and discuss the animals of all the SANParks
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Unread post by gwendolen » Mon Apr 24, 2006 6:00 pm

Leopard (Panthera pardus)

Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Panthera

Other names
Afrikaans: Luiperd
French: Léopard
German: Leopard
Dutch: Luipaard
Portuguese: Leopardo

Leopards (Panthera pardus) are one of the four 'big cats' of the genus Panthera. They range in size from one to almost two metres long, and weigh between 30 and 70 kg. The leopard is a sexually dimorphic species, with females being typically around two-thirds the size of males.

Most leopards are light tan or fawn with black spots, but their coat color is highly variable. The spots tend to be smaller on the head, and larger with pale centers on the body.

Originally, it was thought that a leopard was a hybrid between a lion and a panther, and the leopard's common name derives from this belief; leo is the Latin word for lion, and pard is an old term meaning panther. In fact, a "panther" can be any of several species of large felid. In North America panther means puma and in South America a panther is a jaguar. Elsewhere in the world a panther is a leopard. Early naturalists distinguished between leopards and panthers not by color (a common misconception), but by the length of the tail - panthers having longer tails than pards (leopards).

A black panther is a melanistic leopard (or melanistic jaguar). These have mutations that cause them to produce more black pigment (eumelanin) than orange-tan pigment (pheomelanin). This results in a chiefly black coat, though the spots of a black panther can still be discerned in certain light as the deposition of pigment is different in the pattern than in the background. There are also white panthers.

Despite its size, this largely nocturnal and arboreal predator is difficult to see in the wild.

There are between 7-30 subspecies of leopard (one of them extinct) though not all of these are accepted as distinct by all authorities. The African leopard (Panthera pardus pardus) is the most common leopard with the least conservation concern.

The African leopard has an elongated body with relatively short, stocky legs. They have short rounded ears and long sensitive whiskers. Leopards have long tails which helps them to balance in trees. The African leopard varies in base color throughout Africa, depending on the location and habitat. They can vary from reddish brown, cream and dark yellow. Some leopards are black and are often known as black panthers. This condition is known as melanism. Their spots can sometimes be seen in bright light.

African leopards are covered in black rosettes. There are not normally spots within the rossetes. Each leopard's spots are unique in that their patterns are never the same. Male leopards are larger and heavier than females. Their weight can range anywhere from 55- 200 pounds. The leopard's claws are retractable and hooked for climbing trees and tearing prey.

African leopards inhabit all of Africa. This ranges from mountainous regions to grasslands and savannas. They also can live in desert and forest areas. They are very adaptable to their surroundings. They are incredibly resilient animals.

The biggest threat to the African leopard population is humans. They are hunted for their fur and sport and often killed for eating livestock. As the human population grows it creates more of a problem for them.

Reproduction and social life
A leopard's gestation period is usually between 90-112 days and they bear litters typically between 2-4 cubs. Leopard cubs stay with their mother for about 2 years. It is at about this age that they reach their sexual maturity. Male leopards roam a large territory so there is usually one leopard male with several females in his territory. The male marks his territory using feces, urine and facial marking and scrapings.

Leopards have a very varied diet which includes insects, rodents, reptiles, even large mammals. They sometimes take domestic livestock when other food is scarce. Leopards are very strong and they have been known to carry prey 2 to 3 times their own weight up into trees. They are nocturnal and usually don’t hunt until dusk. However, they are opportunists and will hunt in the daylight when necessary.

Like most cats they stalk close and run a relative short distance after their prey. They kill through suffocation by grabbing their prey by the throat and biting down with their powerful jaws. Leopards rarely fight other predators for their food because the risk of injury could be fatal. Leopards can get water from their prey but need to drink to survive.

Source: wikipedia

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Unread post by Oumie » Mon Apr 24, 2006 10:15 pm

When we visited the 'Old Nwanedzi" camp many moons away, we used to sleep outside on the stoep that was around the inner side of the old house, and was only enclosed with 2 types of chicken mesh from floor to ceiling. It was really sleeping in the "open". There were 2 beds on each side of the stoep with a bathroom. Had to go to toilet early one morning at 2am. While on the "throne" I heard this sawing noise (and no not SO snoring!) Did what I had to do and slowly moved back to my bed looking out of the "mesh" window. The moon was shining bright so I could see the grass and trees. Stood listening for the noise when it started a few metres from me again! I then looked to my left and saw it...LOG walking past the old farm house and it stopped and we had an eye to eye, what a beautiful animal he/she was! Thank goodness there was this double mesh in front of me :wink: He/she then carried on walking towards the gate when I lost sight of it.
Must say it took me a while to go back to sleep :roll:
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Unread post by wildtuinman » Fri May 12, 2006 8:41 am

vos wrote:Gwendolen wrote
The African leopard varies in base color throughout Africa, depending on the location and habitat. They can vary from reddish brown, cream and dark yellow. Some leopards are black and are often known as black panthers. This condition is known as melanism.

Someone recently told me that they saw a 'Black Leopard' in Kruger many years ago. My wife immediately asked him how much he was drinking that day? I did not believe it either as I thought the 'Black Panther' only exists in the Americas and as far as I know, we do not have any black leopards in Africa.
Any thoughts on this?

My mother told me of a very dark coloured leopard she had seen in Kruger a good number of years ago.

Black leopards do exist in SA. The recorded sightings in the Lydenburg area is well-known. Go look in Beeld or News24 archives... sorry I don't have the time to do that right now.

In daylight you will still see the dapples on the very darkly coloured skin.
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Unread post by Suricate » Mon Aug 28, 2006 9:38 am

Black Leopard,

When I was staying in KNP in 2004/ 2005 I heard lots of people talking about a black leopard walking through Lydenburg. They apparently put up cameras to capture some pics of the leopard walking through town. It is an unbelievable story, but it must be true as experts are involved. Did anyone hear about it and maybe has updated infos on it?
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Unread post by christo » Mon Aug 28, 2006 11:41 am

There are a population of Black leopard in the triangle of towns in the Lydenburg, Belfast area.

This black is the melanistic gene which changes the spread of the black on the leopard to give a more even colour. When you look closely you will still see the leopards rosettes however.

This melanistic gene is the same that causes Black springboks as well as the black manes in the Kalahari lions.
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Unread post by bert » Mon Aug 28, 2006 9:27 pm

No LIT or LOG but LOR
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Unread post by bwana » Mon Aug 28, 2006 9:44 pm

bert wrote:No LIT or LOG but LOR
Biyamiti Weir

Probably the same dude Bert - also at the Biyamiti Weir:

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Unread post by Jose » Fri Oct 13, 2006 12:04 pm

Snoobab wrote:<...>about 80% of visitors staying at LS and Skukuza drive past leopard almost every day without seeing them.

When people tell me they haven't seen anything, I always reply "but if it's any consolation, they have seen you!" :wink:


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Unread post by Impisi08 » Mon Oct 23, 2006 3:18 pm

A few years ago I saw this on the S 65. When I arrived the hyena was feeding on a dead kudu. The leopard was visible in the background. When the hyena walked away the leopard wanted to eat but every time the hyena run back and chased the leopard away. When the hyena finally left the leopard fed for only 10 minutes and then also left.



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Unread post by Impisi08 » Wed Dec 06, 2006 9:53 pm

Leopard left for dead by baboon troop

Sighting: Leopard left for dead by baboon troop
Location: Linyanti Concession
Date: October 2006
Observers: Thuto Moutloatse & Iris Pfeiffer

While on an afternoon game drive in the north eastern parts of the Linyanti Concession during a Migration Routes Exploration, guide Thuto Moutloatse spotted a female leopard moving through the dry mopane.
As they watched her she proceeded to stalk and unsuccessfully chase a tree squirrel.
She was lactating - indicating cubs left in a lair somewhere - and was clearly hungry (from the obviously gaunt appearance and her behaviour in opportunistically stalking small prey).

The leopard then spotted a troop of baboons foraging in a strung out line as they too moved through the mopane woodland.
She managed to stalk within distance of the rearguard of the troop and then rushed at the young baboon bringing up the rear which she killed.
As Thuto moved the vehicle forward to re-establish a view, they discovered the entire baboon troop of around 30 animals had absolutely overwhelmed the leopard and were in the process of attempting to rescue the attacked member of the troop and kill the leopard which was invisible at the bottom of the pile.
The noise was incredible and the chaos and aggression of the attack bewildering.
The young baboon lay lifeless to one side and as the vehicle rounded the corner part of the baboon troop backed off a little, leaving a clearly injured leopard lying still in the grass.

Over the next two and a half hours the baboon troop surrounded the leopard and continued to harass it, the charge being lead by the large males and several smaller pretenders to the throne.
Amazingly, the leopard lay prone almost shamming death although visibly still alive.
Having lost the momentum of the initial attack first one baboon would rush in and scuff the prone predator and then another would take the advantage of attacking from the other side.

Eventually the bulk of the troop moved off leaving just one large male and a smaller subordinate female. Although it appeared as if the leopard was by this stage mortally wounded and this was certainly the perception by those watching spellbound from the vehicle, the larger baboon was cautious in his approach of the leopard while the female simply watched from a safe distance.
Curiosity or thoughts of revenge got the better of the larger baboon however and he eventually did approach what he thought was a dying leopard.
Before he could scuff her again however, the leopard sprung onto its hind legs and attacked the baboon, forcing both the male and female to flee.
Having achieved this, the leopard then picked up the carcass of the baboon killed before the skirmish erupted, shook it and walked off carrying the carcass in its jaws as if nothing untoward had happened at all. As Thuto commented: "The most incredible thing about his sighting for me was to see the leopard play dead for about 2 ½ hours as the baboons harassed her - she knew that if she retaliated the whole troop would kill her."

While the adrenalin, action and excitement made this a spectacular sighting, it is also of interest since baboons do not feature high on the list of leopard prey.
In areas where medium- and small-sized ungulates are common, these are the preferred prey and baboons make up only a very low percentage of kills.
Even in areas where this ungulate prey class is at a low density, baboons do not make up an important portion of leopard prey and alternative species such as dassies are taken instead.
The reasons for this of course are the social structure of baboon troops and the powerful and aggressive nature of the male baboons in the troop.
Most attacks on baboons by leopard take place in low light conditions when the leopard can take refuge from the response of the troop.
Attacks in daylight end in mobbing behaviour of the kind witnessed here, or even leopard fatalities at the hands of baboons that have been recorded all over Africa.

On this occasion, this specific female took a huge risk that had it turned out differently could easily have left her unable to fend for her cubs.

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Unread post by Nico » Wed Dec 06, 2006 10:38 pm

Great story Impisi08. Leopards are so clever, they really use some tricks to succeed in catching prey. :wink:
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Unread post by Boulder » Fri Jan 12, 2007 10:56 pm

Dont worry about not seeing a leopard WAC...your time will come. I had 21 trips to Kruger before I saw my first one. My 23 year old son also thinks he is jinxed because the few trips he comes with us lately we never see a leopard. He comes out with me every morning at 4:30am and and our neighbours at Shimuwini used to boast to us that they got the mother and cub every day but then we didnt feel so bad when he showed us his blurred photos of running away leopard and cub as he did race around a lot. Your first sighting will be great and hopefully you will come across him first. Unlike our Shimuwini Neighbour rather ask the driver to stop immediately (a trick I learned on the farm at your age next to Kruger) and TURN OFF THE ENGINE. It doesnt matter if you are 100 metres away. If you are on a quiet road and you have patience that cat is inquisitive like all cats ...only worse. It never fails ...they will come to you. We found this one FINALLY this trip at Biyamiti at 5 am and did just that and sure enough I was able with Rob to watch this beautiful cat get up from lying in the road and walk towards us and be with us at our car for 25 mins on our own...totally relaxed and she let me get some of my best ever leopard shots. I wish you all the luck and it will come
I know you love cats and next time you are in Kruger you will see one like this
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Unread post by Yves » Thu Feb 08, 2007 3:43 pm

This was the third leopard we saw on the morning of 3 November 06. The biggest one ive seen to date. It was on the S25 on the way to crocodile bridge about 1km from the Bume river.
Our first sighting was 2km from Biyamiti camp across the river. I have a pic but it was far away. Our second one was in a tree about 3km on the S25, at quite a distance aswell.
This was all within two hours on about 12km of road. What a amazing morning

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