Temporal range: Late Pliocene or Early Pleistocene to Recent
Leopards generally have yellow fur with dark rosettes and spots, and a lighter colored underside. But there can be a lot of differences in the different leopard subspecies. There are also often leopards who are completely black, those are also called black panthers. Male leopards are about 30% larger than female leopards.
Originally the leopard lived in all of Africa (but not in the Sahara) and southern Asia. But today many leopard subspecies, especially in Asia, are endangered, disappearing or dying. The leopard lives in the largest range of all big cats, and because of this it has a lot of different subspecies. Leopards also live in a lot of different environments: rainforests, forests, mountains and savannas.
The leopard is mostly active at night. It can climb very well, and it stays up in trees a lot of its time. It mostly eats middle-big mammals, but also birds, reptiles and insects. Leopards hunt at different times of the day, and they also use different methods for hunting. Most often leopards will secretly move towards their prey and attack it when they are close, or hide and wait for it to come close. After the hunt, leopards often take their prey up on a tree, or sometimes hide it, so that other animals cannot take it away.
Leopards usually live alone and try not to meet another leopard. They only come together to mate. Young leopards leave their mothers after 13 – 18 months.
Leopards mostly eat monkeys, but rodents, reptiles, amphibians, insects, birds and fish are also eaten. Leopards do not usually eat humans, but sometimes leopards that are hurt or sick can eat people when they do not have enough to eat. A leopard in India is believed to have eaten more than 125 people.
There are nine subspecies of leopards recognized today, one in Africa and eight in Asia. They are:
- African leopard P.p pardus
- Amur leopard P.p orientalis
- Arabian leopard P.p nimr
- Indian leopard P.p fusca
- Indo Chinese leopard P.p delacouri
- Javan leopard P.p melas
- North Chinese leopard P.p japonensis
- Persian leopard P.p saxicolor
- Sri Lankan leopard P.p kotiya
- Cat Specialist Group (2002). Panthera pardus. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 12 May 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
- Kindersley, Dorling (2001, 2005). Animal. New York City: DK Publishing. ISBN 0-7894-7764-5.
- Schaller, George B. (1972). The Serengeti Lion. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226736393.
- Hart, Donna; Robert W. Sussman (2005). Man the Hunted: Primates, Predators, and Human Evolution. Westview Press. ISBN 0813339367.
- Tougias, Michael (2007). When Man Is the Prey: True Stories of Animals Attacking Humans. Macmillan. ISBN 0312373007.
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