African Leopards Holding On By A Claw
Humans are pushing the African leopard towards extinction. Populations are declining outside protected areas, due to habitat loss and fragmentation, cruel trophy hunting and conflict with humans.
In South Africa the leopard is the only large cat that is still free roaming. Exactly how many and for how long is uncertain.
How Nikela Helps
Nikela provided two camera traps for a leopard research project. Today we share stories and raise awareness regarding the cruelty of canned hunts. Read Wildlife Ranger (free ebook) that includes how leopards are sometimes drugged before a hunt for easy shooting!
Information About Leopards
Distribution & habitat
This leopard subspecies is found through much of sub-Saharan Africa, but has become rare in most of West Africa. Leopards are found in a range of habitats, including rainforests, deserts, mountains and swamps.
Leopards are easily identified by their striking yellow coat with black spots. The African leopard’s coat colour, spot size and pattern, and body size all vary depending on the animal’s habitat and location. Although the leopard is the smallest of the big cats, it’s a ferocious predator with a muscular body and powerful paws.
African leopards have a broad diet but mostly hunt medium-sized ungulates like impala and gazelles. Being opportunist predators, among the animals the leopard will hunt are: birds, hares, rodents and reptiles. If their usual prey cannot be located, leopards will occasionally prey on domestic livestock, which angers landowners.
Behaviour and socialization
Leopards are most active between sunset and sunrise, during which time they kill the most prey. After locating their prey from a vantage point, the leopard will closely stalk the animal and then run a short distance to grab it. Leopards use suffocation to kill their prey, grabbing it by the throat and then biting down with their powerful jaws. If the prey is large, the leopard will often use its great strength to drag the carcass to a tree for storage.
Adult males are solitary, while females will spend almost half their lives caring for cubs. A female usually gives birth to a litter of two or three cubs. She makes a den from a cave, hollow tree or empty burrow, where she hides the cubs until they are able to follow her around at 6-8 weeks old. Cubs are weaned after three months but stay with their mother for up to two years.
Conservation status and threats
Classified by the IUCN as Near Threatened, African leopard populations are declining due to a number of threats. The human-related factors pushing the animal closer to extinction include: loss and fragmentation of their habitat, trophy hunting and conflict with landowners angered by leopards killing, or perceived to be attacking, their livestock. As well as being shot and poisoned, when leopards enter human-inhabited areas they also face threats like getting hit by vehicles or being painfully trapped in snares. These threats mean the animal is becoming increasingly rare outside protected areas.