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Leopard & Impala | by cliff1066™
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Leopard & Impala

Leopard (Panthera pardus)

The leopard inhabits the forests, mountains and grasslands of Africa and Asia. It can be found in all of sub-Saharan Africa and west of the Kalahari. They also occur in China, India, Iran, Pakistan, Indonesia, Nepal. It is abundant throughout its range, despite being extensively hunted for its skins.


The leopard is the smallest of the great cats (lion, tiger, jaguar, leopard). Males are up to 50% larger than the females; this is why there is such a variation in its size. The leopard has an elongated body set on relatively short and stocky legs. The paws are broad. Its ears are short and rounded. They have a very short and sleek coat. Their color varies from light tawny to deep rusty yellow, with a lighter underside. They have dark spots on their face, head, throat, chest, and legs. The rest of their body is covered in "rosettes". Leopards can also be totally black.


Leopards can also be all black, a condition known as "melanism", which is common amongst the spotted cats. Black leopards, also known as panthers, are not a separate species, but the same species of leopard. The spots can still be seen, as dark black rosettes on a lighter dark brown background. Melanistic leopards and normal leopards have been known to occur in the same litter. Black leopards are more common in areas with denser trees.


The leopard's dark rosettes help it to blend into the foliage while stalking their prey. Like human fingerprints, each individual leopard's spots are unique.


There are many subspecies of leopards, since the have such a wide range. The Somali leopard lives in Somalia and Ethiopia, and is the smallest of all the leopards, weighing only 50-60 pounds, males 50% larger than females. The Arabian leopard is the second smallest leopard. The Amur and Javan leopards have unusual coat patterns, with darker fur and wider spaced rosettes.


Leopards are opportunistic hunters. They will eat just about anything. Their diet consists of monkeys, rodents, reptiles, amphibians, birds, fish, wild pigs, and ungulates. It stalks its prey silently and at the last minute pounces on its prey and cuts its throat with a quick bite. It hunts during the day to avoid contact with lions and hyenas, who hunt mainly at night. When it kills animals such as gazelle, it carries them up into the trees to eat it. Leopards are capable of carrying animals up to twice their own weight into the trees.

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Taken on July 6, 2008