Leopards: earning their spots
Updated: Nov 27, 2018
Leopards have always intrigued me, their beauty, power, resilience and intelligence are remarkable. Leopards are the most widespread big cat in the Old World with a massive west-east range of habitats both in Africa and Asia comprising savanna, woodland, mountain, desert, rainforest and more. Although there are many more leopards in Africa compared with cheetah and lion populations, they are far more difficult and elusive to find. Putting oneself in the right area can greatly increase your chances and as such I have had the utmost privilege of observing wild leopards in multiple regions in Botswana, Tanzania, South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and India.
Leopards are a big cat, the fourth largest on Earth with males tipping the scales at 175 lbs on average. They are very strong for their size and have the uncanny ability to haul their prey (weighing as much as them) into the trees for protection against marauding competitors like lions and hyenas. This allows the leopards the time to virtually finish the carcass without harassment.
Leopards are highly opportunistic carnivores and have been known to prey on over 100 different species including, rodents, snakes, monkeys, antelope and even young giraffe. Their favoured prey species are small to medium sized antelope such as duikers, steenbok, reedbuck and impala. Using their fur pattern as the ultimate camouflage, their most successful technique allows them to approach prey as closely as possible with thick cover and a calculated stalk. Leopards then burst out with incredible speed and power to quickly subdue their prey. Spending time observing and photographing leopards in the wild has been one of my greatest accomplishments and really gives one an insight into a top-predator’s true behaviour and adaptations.
Where best to spot them: Leopards are stealthy animals and survive best in habitats with sufficient cover and a good diversity of prey. Top leopard viewing regions include;
--- Okavango delta Botswana --- Serengeti, Tanzania
--- South Luangwa, Zambia --- Sabi Sands and Timbavati, South Africa