Bio Facts: Leopard, Amur
Africa through southern Asia
Mountains, grasslands and lowland forests
Pale brown to dark chestnut with white on the shoulders, upper arms, back, flank and rear-end. Body is spotted with dark rosettes. They weigh between 66 to 154 lbs. The head and body measure approximately 40 to 75 inches long, and the tail adds another 28 to 37 inches. Males are larger than females. Eyes and ears are large.
12 years in the wild and up to 21 years in captivity
In the wild, they eat small antelopes, rodents, monkeys, rabbits and birds. In the Zoo, they are fed feline diet, and horse knucklebones.
Amur Leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) USF&WS – Endangered, CITES
Leopards are solitary. Sometimes several will inhabit overlapping ranges. During the day, they rest on tree branches, rocks or in dense vegetation. Females occupy territories that vary in size from 4 to 12 square miles. Males occupy larger territories that overlap several female territories. These areas are defended in fights and are marked throughout by urine sprayed onto logs branches and tree trunks. The main vocalization is a rough rasping sound – like that of a saw being used on coarse wood.
Over most of their range, leopards have no particular breeding season. Females are in estrous at three to seven week intervals. The period of receptivity lasts for a few days during which mating is frequent. Females primarily take care of the young. One to six cubs are born. The female gives birth in a cave, crevice, hollow tree or a thicket. The gestation period is 90 to 105 days. At birth, cubs weigh between 15 to 20 ounces, are blind and fully furred. The youngsters open their eyes after 10 days, start following their mothers at 6 to 8 weeks, and are weaned at 3 months. Mothers care for their cubs until they are approximately 18 to 20 months of age. When 2 to 3 years old, male cubs disperse and settle elsewhere, while female cubs probably take over part of their mother’s territory.
They have brief running spurts of over 60 mph. Horizontally, they can leap 20 feet and vertically 10 feet.
The leopard is the most widely distributed member of the cat family, and this is largely due to its highly adaptable hunting and feeding behavior. Leopards catch a great variety of small prey and do so by a combination of opportunism, stealth and speed. Because of the variety and small size of their prey, they avoid competition with larger predators like lions, tigers, hyenas and wild dogs.
To clench prey, leopards have powerful jaws. Their nearly silent walk allows them to quietly stalk prey, pounce, and attack with a fatal bite to the neck. Food is often pulled up into a tree and hidden, allowing the leopard to feed for several days.
Leopards are nocturnal In the evening, their vision is 6 times better than ours.
A leopard’s whisker pattern is as unique as human fingerprints.
The name “leopard” originates from a mistaken belief that this animal was a hybrid between the lion (Leo) and the “pard” or panther. And, only just over a century ago it was still disputed whether leopards and “panthers” were separate species. In fact, the words “pard” and “panther” are vague, archaic terms used for several large cats, including the jaguar, cougar and leopard.
Maybe as many as 30 subspecies have been named, but based on DNA research there are now only seven subspecies that are recognized today. The most common subspecies in North American zoos is the Amur Leopard (P. p. orientalis) which occurs in Asia.
One of the most common and most striking coat variations is melanism, resulting in the leopard appearing to be completely black. It is caused by a recessive gene, which appears to be more frequent in leopard populations in forests, mountains and in Asia. In the Malay Peninsula, 50% of leopards may be black. The name “black panther” is sometimes erroneously applied to such animals in the belief that they are distinct species. Several other cat species, including the jaguar and serval, also exhibit melanism.
A Ndbele story tells why the leopard drags its food up a tree to hide it. Years ago, a leopard, hyena and jackal were friends. When leopard killed prey, he was polite, and shared with hyena and jackal. One day, leopard felt too ill to hunt, and asked his friends to fetch food for him. Jackal was too lazy, and hyena did not feel like it. Leopard decided that their friendship was one-sided. After this incident, leopard told them that everything he hunted would be taken up high in a tree and hidden so jackal and hyena could not share with him.
The main threat to the leopard is man. They are hunted for their coats, for sport and to protect livestock. In Africa, the leopard is considered one of the “big five” to Western sport hunters. The other four are the lion, buffalo, elephant and rhinoceros.
Jacksonville Zoo History:
Leopards have been part of our Zoo’s animal collection since at least September 1959. Currently on exhibit is the Amur Leopard (P. p. orientalis). Leopards, including both generic (P. pardus) and Persian (P. p. saxicolor) have successfully bred here.