The leopard is the smallest of four cats belonging to the Genus Panthera. Its appearance is similar to a jaguar but it is slightly smaller, stockier in build and its rosettes are smaller, more densely packed and usually do not have central spots. Ambiguously, both melanistic forms of leopards and jaguars are called black panthers.
These beautiful animals are phenomenally adapted to a wide range of habitats. It can run up to 58 km/hr, climb trees while carrying a carcass and is renowned for its stealth capabilities. An opportunistic hunter, it will feed on any animal it can catch from arthropods to large antelopes the size of an eland.
Depending on region, leopards may mate all year round. A female typically gives birth to a litter of 2 – 4 cubs in a den in cave, boulder crevice or hollow tree. After 3 months, cubs will follow their mother on hunts. Mortality rate in cubs during their first year is at approximately 50%.
Leopards may have a wide range but their population is declining due to habitat loss and fragmentation. They are also hunted for trade and pest control. The IUCNclassifies leopards as a Near Threatened species that may soon slip into the Vulnerable category.
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