The leopard is a member of the cat family. Like all cats, it is a
carnivorous or meat-eating animal. Its sharp, scissor-like back teeth and
retractable claws are the leopard's principal weapons, used for catching its
prey. These together with is powerful body, strong legs, its acute sense of
hearing and a pair of large eyes with excellent vision, make the leopard an
Like human fingerprints, he spots on a leopard's coat
are unique, and each cat may be recognized by its individual markings. The
thickness of a leopard's coat, the degree of spotting and the variations in
coat color are indications of its particular habitat and the climate it
inhabits. for example, leopards found in cold, mountainous areas of northern
China, have long thick coats. The Middle Eat leopards have light coats with
large spots while the Malay Peninsular leopards are mostly black, providing
excellent camouflage in the thick tropical rain forests.
Except for brief periods of courtship, mating and motherhood, the leopard
is nearly always solitary. when a leopard reaches adulthood, it shuns
companionship; doing everything on its own. It also spends much of its days
resting alone in trees, climbing down only at twilight to hunt.
Leopards are remarkably adaptable to all kinds of environment and
climate. They are found in Africa, southern Asia, the Middle East and the
Far East. Their willingness to eat protein in almost any form, ranging from
tiny beetles to wildebeests several times their own size, accounts for their
remarkable ability to survive and even thrive. Water is surprisingly not a
necessity for the survival of the leopard. It is able to obtain sufficient
moisture from the blood of its victims.
Despite its great adaptability, the number of leopards in the wild has
fallen dramatically since the turn of the century. The
encroachment of humans into leopard habitat reduces the
population of its usual prey. Inevitable, the leopards turn their attention
to domestic animals. Thus, they are shot and poisoned in great numbers by
Leopards are also hunted down for their highly prized skin. During the
1960s and 1970s, 60000 skins were sold annually. Recent estimates put the
total number of leopards deliberately killed each year in Africa alone at
around 6000; 4000 of which are killed illegally. In the Far East they are
hunted for use in traditional medicine.
Measures to protect and to check the decline of the leopard population
have been taken by a number of African nations. they include the creation of
game reserves and fur farms. these reserves not only safeguard the natural
habitat of leopards, but they also generate funds from eco-tourism. the
Amboseli National Park of Kenya alone generated US$40 million in 1990.Fur
farms where leopards are reared for their skin is another revenue earner and
option to reduce poaching.
According to analysts, the future of leopards remains bright as the
protection of these cats proves useful to people and their government.