Scientific Name: Panthera pardus (Linnaeus, 1758)
The leopard has a typically cat-like profile with a powerful, muscular body, relatively short legs and a very long tail. The pelage is covered with a series of black rosette spots. The background colour, which is a light tan to golden-yellow, varies depending on the habitat, which has led to considerable taxonomic confusion and debate. Individuals can be identified by the pattern of the rosettes, especially those around the neck.
The mean shoulder height of males is 70 cm and of females 60 cm. A male can reach a total body length, from the nostril to the tip of the tail, of 290 cm. They have five toes on the front paw, of which only four are printed in the spoor, and four toes on the hind paw. Both prints lack claw marks as the powerful claws retract fully into the nail-beds. Claws are 25-30 mm long. Trophies are measured by combining the maximum width of the skull and the maximum length.
Adult males have a mean live body mass of 60 kg, and females 32 kg.
Male 10 years and female 12 years.
Habitats are almost unlimited, ranging from wet tropical forest to bushveld, thickets, savannah, grassland, highveld, marshland, fynbos, Karoo shrubland and semi-arid deserts. The volume of consumed meat differs according to the size of the cat, the type of prey and the surrounding environment. As much as 12 kg can be eaten in a single meal. On average, adult bushveld leopard males in a habitat with large antelope consume 3,3 kg per day and females, 2,5 kg. The frequency of kills varies from once every 12 days in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, to seven days in the Kruger National Park and 1,5 days in the Kalahari. This computes to an annual consumption equal to approximately 31 impala per adult leopard. Sexual maturity is gained after two years and social maturity at first mating at three to four years. There is no specific breeding or birth season as mating occurs at any time of the year. A mating pair displays a playful behaviour during courtship, chasing each other in circles. Copulation is of short duration and is repeated several times within one or two days. The majority of copulations are unsuccessful. Gestation varies between 90 and 106 days.
Two to three cubs with closed eyes are born in a den that is either hidden between rocks, in a cave, a deserted burrow or in thicket vegetation. The eyes open at eight to10 days. Alpha males do not assist with the raising of the infants as they retreat to their own territory soon after mating. The mother abandons the litter for periods of up to six days while she is hunting and during this time the young are extremely vulnerable to predation, especially by jackal, caracal and python. The mother regularly translocates the litter to prevent detection by predators. The cubs are weaned at three months but only begin to hunt effectively after ten months. They become independent at 12-18 months.