About the Leopard
Found in more than 60 countries but possibly having vanished in over 20, the leopard remains the most widespread of the big cats however the species is under constant threat through most of its range.
The leopard (also known as forest leopard and common leopard) – Scientific Name Panthera pardus – Conservation Status VULNERABLE with a decreasing population globally.
The Indian Leopard is our focus species at Mission Leopard: Panthera pardus fusca – Conservation Status VULNERABLE. The Indian Leopard is native to the Indian sub-continent where it is found in the following countries: Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Taking data from population census and estimates there could be as many as 20,000 leopards in the region although that figure is probably at the upper level. Threats to the Indian leopard are explained in Snapshot 2023.
There are nine recognized subspecies of leopard (Panthera pardus) according to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS):
- African leopard (Panthera pardus pardus) – VULNERABLE
- Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) – CRITICALLY ENDANGERED
- Arabian leopard (Panthera pardus nimr) – CRITICALLY ENDANGERED
- Indian leopard (Panthera pardus fusca) – VULNERABLE
- Indochinese leopard (Panthera pardus delacouri) – CRITICALLY ENDANGERED
- Javan leopard (Panthera pardus melas) – CRITICALLY ENDANGERED
- Sri Lankan leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya) – VULNERABLE
- North Chinese leopard (Panthera pardus japonensis) – CRITICALLY ENDANGERED
- Persian leopard (Panthera pardus saxicolor) – ENDANGERED
It’s worth noting that the classification and recognition of subspecies can be somewhat contentious and subject to revision as more research is conducted.
Leopards are large carnivorous mammals that are known for their distinctive spots (known as rosettes), powerful build, and elusive nature. Here are some of their main characteristics:
- Appearance: Leopards have a muscular build and are covered in short fur that is typically a tawny or yellowish color, with black spots that are arranged in rosettes or circles. They have a long tail, powerful legs, and sharp claws.
- Size: Adult leopards can range in weight from 60 to 200 pounds (27 to 91 kg) and can grow up to 6 feet (1.8 meters) in length (including the tail).
- Adaptability: Leopards are highly adaptable and can be found in a wide range of habitats, from forests to grasslands to mountains.
- Solitary hunters: Leopards are solitary animals and are primarily nocturnal hunters, although they may also be active during the day. They hunt a variety of prey, including antelope, deer, monkeys, and even small mammals and birds.
- Tree climbers: Leopards are skilled climbers and are known to drag their prey into trees to keep it away from other predators and scavengers.
- Elusive nature: Leopards are notoriously difficult to spot in the wild due to their excellent camouflage and solitary behavior.
- Geographic range: Leopards are found throughout much of Africa and parts of Asia, including India, Sri Lanka, and the Russian Far East.
- Endangered status: Many subspecies of leopard are currently listed as endangered due to habitat loss, poaching, and other threats.