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Africa's Big 5 - Images, Facts and Information about the "Big Five"


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African Leopard (Panthera pardus)
Leopard, Botswana, Africa's Big Five

Leopard, Botswana, Africa's Big Five

© Getty Images/Cameron Spencer
The African leopard (Panthera pardus) is more numerous than the African rhino in the Big 5 pantheon, but they are just as difficult to spot on safari in Africa. Leopards use trees as observation platforms and for protection, so you have to remember to look up to see this solitary, beautiful cat. Leopards are shy and nocturnal, quite modest for a cat that can climb, swim and live in a wider range of habitats than most other wild cats.

A leopard's spots offer excellent camouflage as they move about their range, seldom staying in the same area for more than a few days. Males tend to have larger ranges than females and mark it by urinating and leaving claw marks. Leopards tend to store their fresh kill up in a tree to avoid it getting poached by lions and hyenas. Leopards are smaller than lions but an adult male can still weigh in at 200 lbs. They can run at speeds of over 35 mph, and are extremely agile jumpers.

Leopards live throughout sub-Saharan Africa, they cover a wide range of habitats from the thick forests of West Africa to the highlands of Ethiopia, but they prefer thick bush and riverine forests. A leopards' only predator is man. Man has succeeded in getting this magnificent cat on the IUCN's "near threatened" list by reducing the leopards' habitat, depleting its prey and hunting it.

Where to see Leopard

Fun Leopard Facts

  • Leopards can kill prey larger than themselves
  • Leopards purr
  • Leopards are excellent swimmers
  • A leopard's spots are in fact irregular circles called "rosettes"
  • A leopard stalks and pounces its prey, rather than chase it long distances
  • A leopard with no spots and a black coat is called a panther
  • A leopard cub begins to hunt with its mother at around 4-5 months old
  • The leopards' spots are circular in East African but square in southern Africa
  • Leopards can jump 10 feet (3 m) straight up
  • White spots on the tip of their tails and back of their ears help leopards locate and communicate with each other in tall grass

The Leopard - AWF
Leopard - Wikipedia
Leopard - San Diego Zoo

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