Leopards are one of the most secretive and elusive large predators in the wild and also very hard to spot, thanks to their solitary life. They are, however, the smallest members of the large cat category which includes lions, tigers, cougars, cheetahs and the jaguars.
Male and female leopards vary in weight. Females typically weigh 21 to 60 kilograms and males usually weigh around 36 to 75 kg.
Leopards are light colored and have dark spots on their fur referred to as rosettes because their shape is similar to that of roses.
Their adaptability to any environment warm or cold and the ability to climb up trees with their heavy prey is one of reasons they survive for long in the wild. The lifespan of a leopard is 12 to 17 years!
Leopards are the strongest wild animals among the big cats and they have the longest canines among the cat species.
Leopards are very fast and can run up to 58 kilometers per hour and can leap 6 meters forward through the air. This makes them the master hunters in the wild and the reason why they can devour almost any kind of prey. They feast on anything they land on; antelopes, monkeys, rodents, deer’s and many more.
They are also very good at swimming and hunting fish, reptiles, insects and animals in the water and around the water bodies.
They like strolling through the savannahs, forests, hills and caves to elude the lions (who occasionally kill them) and keep the hyenas (who steal their food) at bay.
Leopards are nocturnal! They spend much of their day time resting in the trees or caves and hunt during the night.
Leopards communicate with each other through distinctive calls like growl when angry, cough when they want to show their presence and purr when happy.
They are known to mark and defend their territories by demarcating their space with urine or poop on the trees to warn away intruders.
The relationship between the female and male leopards is the love-hate kind of arrangement. The two only cross paths when they have to mate and rarely when they are raising the cubs.
Female leopards only give birth to three or four cubs which they look after for a maximum of 2 years. During this time, the cubs are taught hunting and self protection skills.
Leopard spots in Uganda
In Uganda Leopards can be found in Kidepo Valley National Park, Murchison falls National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Semiliki National Park among others.