most secretive and elusive of the large
carnivores, the leopard is also the shrewdest.
Pound for pound, it is the strongest climber of the large cats and
capable of killing prey larger than itself.
The leopard is a
solitary animal, hunting usually at night, and spending
much of the day hiding in thickets or in the fork of a
tree. They prey on small antelope, rodents, baboons,
monkeys and birds, being quick and efficient hunters.
of their claws, leg muscles and neck muscles is
astonishing. They will usually haul their kill, often
weighing more than themselves, up into a tree to keep it
from scavengers. It then rests from its exertion and at
its leisure, begins to tear out tufts of fur. Having
cleared a patch of flesh it starts its meal, saving the
remains for later, safe from vultures and hyaenas.
Leopards, like other cats, spend about two thirds of
their lives sprawled out in relaxed slumber.
Leopards continually move
about their home ranges, seldom staying in an area for more than two or
three days at a time. With marking and calling, they usually know one
another's whereabouts. A male will accompany a female in estrus for a
week or so before they part and return to solitude.
Dense bush in rocky
surroundings and riverine forest are their favorite habitats, but
leopards adapt to many places in both warm and cold climates. Their
adaptability, in fact, has helped them survive the loss of habitat to
increasing human settlement. Leopards are primarily nocturnal, usually
resting during the daytime in trees or thick bush. The spotted coat
provides almost perfect camouflage.
Leopards have long been
preyed upon by man. Their soft, dense, beautiful fur has been used for
ceremonial robes and coats. Different parts of the leopard the tail,
claws and whiskers are popular as fetishes. These cats have a reputation
as wanton killers, but research does not support the claim. In some
areas farmers try to exterminate them, while in others leopards are
considered symbols of wisdom. Leopards do well in captivity, and some
have lived as long as 21 years
Both lions and hyenas will
take away a leopard's kill if they can. To prevent this leopards store
their larger kills in trees where they can feed on them in relative
The Mfuwe area of the
National Park is well known for its frequent leopard
sightings. Lower Zambezi
is also a good Park for Leopard spotting.