Why Leopards Are Becoming Extinct

by Stephen Reeves - Date: 2010-09-17 - Word Count: 671 Share This!

On the flooded marshlands of Mombo in the heart of the Okavango Delta, Botswana, there are fertile floodplains filled with trees and greenery and the best game viewing imaginable. This place is known as Africas 'Last Garden of Eden' with vast herds of herbivores tracked by the numerous predators continually on the prowl. These predators include the big cats such as the Lion, the Cheetah and the Leopard.

The normal gestation period of a pregnant leopard is about three months or one hundred days when one to five cubs are born in a rocky den. After about eight days they emerge to begin exploring. The cubs are under constant danger as packs of hyenas stalk for the young looking to uncover the leopards den. The mother must also be on the lookout for troupes of baboons who are know to eat just about anything and have also been known to attack the dens. The cubs therefore must learn how to climb trees quickly. They learn to stalk, hunt and kill and becomes a master when it comes to ambushing its prey.

The leopard is a silent, invisible killer arguably considered to be the ultimate predator. It is a very beautiful creature and its fur provides the perfect camouflage. Invisibility is this creatures best weapon and it can disappear into foliage right before your eyes under a cloak of invisibility. This is also a fast cat and over the first 30 meters it is like lightning rivaling another cat of Botswana, the Cheetah, for the crown.

The preferred habitat of the leopard is the dense foliage of lush forests as these areas provide cover for hunting and refuge from other predators like lions and hyenas. To give you an idea of how successful these predators are, imagine the skill it would take to catch a monkey or better still a squirrel... in a tree. They are excellent climbers and can swing through trees like acrobats. Other prey consists of warthog piglets, young baboons and
impala which is a medium sized antelope and is the prey of choice. A leopard will always attempt to haul a kill into a tree and store it safely out of reach of the other predators but can often kill prey far too big to lift. Predictably the hyenas follow them around hoping for a free feed.

These cats are secretive and solitary creatures. Male leopards will defend a territory against other males while two females sharing the same territory is a recipe for disaster. This is true even when the female is its own cub. So at what age is another female leopard no longer her mothers cub? Up to a certain age the cub survives on what the mother provides and smaller prey such as guinea fowl. No leopard comes of age until they have killed an impala and when a young female protects her kill from her mother, it is time. Their territory is marked with what is known as a home range with a core area in the center which is strongly defended and a less defended outer area around the center.

There is no doubt that leopards are very successful predators but are they the ultimate predator and are they on the endangered species list? They have amber eyes like honey and sharp teeth with lethal intent. Soft pads cushion their approach, their speed is something to marvel at and their ability in the trees is freakish. The coloration of its fur is spectacular and turns them invisible in the dense foliage of the trees. They are very difficult to see in the wild and census counts are very difficult owing to the fact that these animals are more difficult to locate. In Africa it is estimated that over two thousand leopards are still hunted down and shot as trophies each year. However, a visit to the Mombo Camp in the Moremi Game Reserve on the Okavango Delta in Botswana has a reputation as your best bet for seeing a leopard up close...just do not hold your breath.

Related Tags: leopard, endangered species of cats, ultimate predators

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