The thrill of a safari is always one of the draws of the African bushveld. The sun starts to rise, peeking up over the horizon of the valleys. Guests head out with sleepy eyes that quickly become vigilant as a breath of fresh air wakes them. The excitement builds of what is to come. The ranger and guests search the vast expanse that is Shamwari for the elusive leopard.
Today is International Leopard Day
In honour of International Leopard Day, we’re sharing some incredibly fascinating facts about one of the most sought-after members of the big five.
The leopard is the most elusive of all the big predators at Shamwari. They are well camouflaged making the sight of them even more rewarding.
Most leopards are light in colour with distinctive dark spots, called rosettes. The rosettes consist of groups of 5 to 6 spots arranged in a tight ring. This feline varies in size and colour depending on the location and habitat. Leopards are found all over sub-Saharan Africa. They occupy the grasslands that have trees in which they can hide and sleep during the heat of the day.
Leopards are nocturnal creatures
They can range between 30 and 70 kilograms and are the most adaptable of all big cats. They are nocturnal and do most of their hunting at night, as they have impressive eyesight and hearing.
Leopards are opportunist hunters meaning that they’ll seize any opportunity to kill prey. They are stealthy and will stalk their prey to get as close as possible before pouncing and going in for the kill. These agile creatures go for the throat of an animal, biting down with their strong jaws. Surprisingly, they can kill prey larger than themselves and will often hunt many different species of animals from antelope species to fish, reptiles and birds to smaller mammals such as rodents, hares and baboons.
Leopards are the strongest climbers of all the large cats. One of their favourite hiding spots is in trees. They often drag their kills up into trees to avoid competition with other predators on the ground. That way, they can feed undisturbed on their kill for as long as they would like to.
These incredible cats are listed as near threatened on the IUCN list. These threats include habitat loss and fragmentation, prey depletion, conflict with people, unsustainable trophy hunting, poaching for skins and body parts, and indiscriminate killing. Make sure to look out for these solitary animals next time you’re on safari.