Wildlife Species of the Week

Leopard (Panthera pardus)

Leopard, which is also popularly called panther, is a large cat closely related to the lion, tiger, and jaguar. Leopards are the shortest of the big cats, although they are strong and bulky – strong enough to pull their prey up trees in order to protect their meal.

The name leopard was originally given to the cat now called cheetah—the so-called hunting leopard—which was once thought to be a cross between the lion and the pard. The term pard was eventually replaced by the name leopard.

There are nine subspecies and are distinguished by the unique characteristics of their coats, which range from tawny or light yellow in warm, dry habitats to reddish-orange in dense forests.

They are predominantly nocturnal, solitary animals, but each individual has a home range that overlaps with its neighbors.

The leopard is the strongest climber of all the big cats. Their shoulder blades even have special attachment sites for stronger climbing muscles. It is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List because leopard populations are threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation.

Their diet fluctuates with prey availability, which ranges from strong-scented carrion, fish, reptiles, and birds to mammals such as rodents, hares, warthogs, antelopes, and baboons.