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The Leopard

The Leopard, Panthera pardus, is the smallest member of the genus Panthera.  This genus is referred to as the Big Cats although there are cats of other genera of similar size to the Leopard.

Other Big Cats are the Tiger, the Lion and the Jaguar.  Recently it has been suggested that the Snow Leopard should be included in the genus. The Snow Leopard is a completely different species from the Leopard. 

Widespread

The Leopard is the most widespread of all the big cats, being found in many parts of Africa as well as the Indian subcontinent and East and South East Asia.  Its geographic distribution used to be even wider than this.  The only area where there are still reasonable numbers of Leopards is Africa south of the Sahara desert. 

The Leopard is suffering in all its range from habitat loss basically caused by the increasing Human population.  Historically it has been killed by hunters and hunting, both legal and illegal, still takes a toll of Leopards, but habitat loss is the main problem.

Overall, the Leopard is the least threatened of all the Big Cats.

Loner

Like most cats, the Leopard does not form large groups.  A mother and her cubs are together for one and a half to two years.

Fighting

Male Leopards will fight; probably in defence of territory.  These fights can result in injuries that eventually prove fatal.

Diet

Leopards will hunt and kill animals several times their own weight.  The larger animals Leopards eat include Giant Elands which can grow to nearly a ton in weight.  Most of the prey species are smaller and include a wide range of species. Many types of Antelope are eaten. Leopards will hunt both on the ground and in trees where they catch monkeys.  Apes are not a major part of their diet.

Although larger animals are preferred, Leopards also eat small rodents and even insects. Leopards are more adaptable in their chose of prey than any other Big Cat.

Man Eating

We are not a major menu item for most Leopards, but there have certainly been cases of Leopards that have eaten people.  As with the other man eating Big Cats, it is often a Leopard that is injured and not able to catch its normal prey that turns to eating us.

Panther

This is a word that has several meanings.  It is sometimes used simply to mean a Leopard, but frequently it means any black Big Cat.  Black Leopards and Black Jaguars are both called Panthers.  Panther is also one of the many names for Puma.

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