This elegant cat has black spots (rosettes) covering its cream or orange russet coloured body. Its tail, which is about half the length of its body is also covered in rosettes and ends with a white tip. The underbelly of a leopard is white/ off-white in colour.
Its ears are rounded and also have a white tip or border around them. Leopard cubs have dark, wooly hair and have less distinct spots.
Leopards have a versatile and flexible habitat being able to live comfortably in open grasslands and shrub land, riverside woodland and in rocky hill country; they can be spotted all around Botswana. In dry areas, leopard can be found in areas which receive an annual rainfall of 200mm and less, and even in higher rainfall areas such as the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park.
Leopards are solitary cats which pair up during mating season or to accompany a female with cubs. They are most active at night, and during the cooler hours of the day; leopards can often be spotted lounging on tree branches to keep cool in the scorching summer heat. They are both good climbers and good swimmers. Trees are used for safety reasons to get away from danger, hyenas and lions. Also used to store food and keep it safe from other predators.
The males mark their territory, and can share marked territory only with females; they guard their territory jealously against other males. Territory is marked with urine, droppings and tree-scratching points. Marked territory ranges from 10km2 to several hundred kilometres- the size is usually dependent on food available in that area.
Not a very vocal animal, leopards call or sound has been likened to a course saw cutting wood.
When trapped or wounded, Leopards can be extremely dangerous but under normal circumstances are shy and withdrawn.
|Setswana name: Nkwe
Scientific name: Panthera pardus
|Total Length: 160- 210cm; tail 68- 110cm
|Shoulder height: 70-80cm
|Mass: (male) 20-90kg, (female) 17-60kg
|Identification pointers: Large size; rosette spots on body, solid black spots on legs, head, sides and hindquarters; lacks the black face-lines of Cheetah and is more heavily spotted. See Cheetah.
This cat has a diet ranging from insects, rodents and birds to medium sized and even large antelope. Interestingly, in the rocky and hilly areas, daisies form an important part of their diet.
Leopards stalk and pounce on their prey and will not always eat everything it kills at once, leaving some for later use, even if it is decomposed. Leopards kill their prey and drag them under dense bushes, amongst rocks or in trees to deter scavengers.
Litters on average of 2-3 , weighing about 500g are born in dense cover (bush) or rock crevices after a gestation period of about 100 days. Leopards breed all year round.