The African Leopard is one of the spectacular spotted big cats of Africa and the Leopard species is the most widespread of all big cats worldwide.

(This information also includes facts about the other Leopard subspecies for completeness.)

African Leopard Status

Leopard Conservation Status

Globally Leopards are classed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List however in parts of their Asian range some subspecies are Endangered and Critically Endangered.

Global - Vulnerable (VU)

Reference: IUCN Red List 2021.1

Leopard Scientific NamePanthera pardus

Leopard Lower Classifications

Numerous subspecies of Leopards have been described in the past, however the current Felidae taxonomy indicates there are eight valid subspecies, one in Africa and seven across Asia:

  • Panthera pardus pardus - Africa
  • Panthera pardus nimr - Arabia
  • Panthera pardus tulliana - South West Asia
  • Panthera pardus fusca - India
  • Panthera pardus kotiya - Sri Lanka
  • Panthera pardus melas - Java
  • Panthera pardus delacouri - South East Asia
  • Panthera pardus orientalis - Eastern Asia

 

African Leopard by Free-Photos

Leopard Size

These dimensions are averages across all the Leopard subspecies:

Leopard Weight

Males: 20 to 90 kg

Females: 17 to 42 kg

Leopard Head+Body Length

Males: 91 to 191 cm

Females: 95 to 123 cm

Leopard Tail length: 51 to 101 cm

Leopards are large, muscular cats with the largest sizes recorded in East and southern Africa. They are the second largest big cat in Africa after Lions and males tend to be far larger than females.

Leopards have beautiful spotted coats which vary considerably in colour across their range. Melanism (black coats) is common in Leopards and these cats are often called 'black panthers'.

Leopard Range and Habitat

Leopard Distribution: Africa and Asia

Leopard Altitude:  Sea level to 4200m (some records to 5200m)

Leopard Habitat:  Most habitats except true desert

Leopards have the widest distribution of all wild cats with the largest portion of their range in Africa and smaller populations in the Middle East and Asia.

The most common type of habitat occupied by leopards is the open woodland and grassland savanna mosaic of East and Southern Africa, where they occur in their highest densities. However leopards also occur in a variety of other habitats from moist tropical forests in Central Africa to arid semi-desert regions in both Africa and Asia. They are known to be one of the cats with the widest habitat tolerance and have even been recorded recently in semi-urban areas.

African Leopard by Pete Oxford

Leopard Behaviour

Leopard Prey:  Mostly antelope

Leopard Social Structure: Solitary

Leopard Territory Size: 6 to 2750 km²

Leopard Range Size: 9 to 2322 km² (averages)

Leopard Density: 1 to 12 per 100 km²

Being a powerful cat with the widest range and varied habitat tolerance, prey items also range considerably in variety. Prey size can range from less than 1 kg up to 900 kgs, however the most common prey will consist of the most abundant antelope in the area. Leopards hunt alone and use different hunting techniques depending on the habitat and size of prey. Prey is sometimes cached to be eaten later or taken up trees to avoid being taken by other carnivores - the only cat to exhibit this behaviour.

Although leopards are mostly solitary males will interact with other female leopards and cubs known to them. Both males and females defend a core territory against their same gender, with larger male territories typically overlapping a number of smaller female territories.

As with all carnivores, the size of leopard home ranges (territories), their total area (range size) and therefore density depends on the available prey in the habitat they occupy. Dry regions with low prey density requires wider foraging compared to moister habitats with abundant prey. Hence leopard densities across Africa and Asia vary widely due to the diverse habitats they occupy.

Leopard Life Cycle

Leopard Gestation: 90 - 106 days

Leopard Litter Size: 1 - 3 cubs (max 6)

Leopard Sub-Adult: 12 - 18 months

Leopard Maturity: 

Males 24 - 28 months

Females 24 - 28 months

Leopard Lifespan:  14 for males and 19 for females in the wild

Leopards can breed year round but may peak seasonally in areas with higher ranges in temperature or rainfall. Cubs reach independence after a year and will begin to disperse. Females tend to overlap with their mother's range however males can disperse vast distances. Females can give birth from around three years old and males can breed from four years old.

Cub survival rates are very low, less than 50%, with infanticide by new males being a primary cause. Natural mortality of adults is mostly due to territorial fights with other leopards or carnivores.

References

African Leopard Cub by Alex Strachan