African Leopard

He is a wild animal

Origin
Almost all of Africa
Translation
Francis Vandersteen
The possession of this animal is not authorized Royal Decree establishing the list of mammals not kept for production purposes that may be kept (M.B. 24.08.2009)
The African Leopard (Panthera pardus pardus) is the most common of the leopard subspecies.

It is the largest and most widespread of the leopard subspecies, weighing up to 90 kg for large males, with a body size of 1.90 m and a good meter of tail. Females are generally 40% smaller.

They are found mainly in sub-Saharan Africa and west of the Kalahari Desert in Namibia, where they are relatively common. The species is almost extinct in North Africa, where it used to be found in the High Atlas Mountains. Its habitat is varied, ranging from savannah (Kenya, Tanzania) to forest (Gabon, DRC (formerly Congo)), not forgetting the mountains (South Africa, Zimbabwe) and the desert areas of the Kalahari Desert in Namibia and the swamps of the Okavango Delta in Botswana.

There are major disparities in size between regions : in South Africa's Cape Province, for example, the average animal weighs no more than 30 kilos, while in the Kruger National Park, also in South Africa, the average weight is 60 kilos.

According to Pocock, the largest leopards are found in Algeria (only rare specimens remain today), northern Congo, southern Sudan, the coastal forests of West Africa, central Gabon and the rift forest region of Kenya, namely the Aberdares and Mount Kenya.

These assumptions are based on skull measurements : in northeastern Congo, 7 males were measured, and their skulls measured an average of 261 mm, with two specimens at 279 mm and 282 mm respectively. Even more impressive, 3 specimens from the coast of Gabon averaged 274 mm, with the largest at 282 mm. While this information may be tempered by the small size of the sample, the measurements are nonetheless impressive, as they stand alongside those of the Pantanal jaguar (the largest jaguar subspecies), which averages 282.2 mm in skull size and 282 mm in mato grosso.

Given that the Pantanal jaguar weighs an average of 100 kilos, it's not out of the question that leopards with the same measurements could also reach an imposing weight of around 90 kilos (the leopard is slightly thinner than the jaguar for the same size).

By way of comparison, the largest leopards, the South and East African leopards, have skulls averaging 230 mm, with the largest measuring 260 mm. All these data are available in Pocock's book The Leopards of Africa (1932) and also in J.A. Allen's Carnivora Collected by American Museum Congo Expedition.

Data on the jaguar are taken from Notes on the biology and status of the jaguar in Venezuela by Mondolfi and Hoogesteijn 1986.

According to Rowland ward (official hunters' publications), leopards in the mountainous regions of East Africa measure an average of 260 mm at the skull, with one specimen measuring 286 mm, which is greater than the average size of the largest jaguar subspecies.

The leopard's population is estimated at 700,000 individuals, mostly living outside parks. The leopard's great adaptability to climate change and its habit of living in trees guarantee its safety, except when it attacks cattle herds, in which case farmers try to poison it. Last but not least, its skin is still the stuff of dreams : clan chiefs see it as an emblem of power. They sometimes don leopard-skin clothing and headdresses to legitimize their authority.

Certainly the most extreme among felines, the male/female size difference is enormous, sometimes exceeding 100%. Females weigh an average of 30 kilos, and 50 to 60 kilos for the biggest, while males reach an average of 60 kilos, and 80 to 90 kilos for the biggest specimens. Thus, the settlers, struck by the difference in size, thought they were distinguishing two different species, the leopard (the male) and the panther (the female), even though they are obviously the same animal. The morphological differences are numerous : the male's skull is bigger, stronger and more angular, the sagittal crest is very pronounced in the male, and almost absent in the female (the sagittal crest influences the strength of the jaw), etc. These differences obviously stem from a different way of looking at the animal.

The female, unlike the male, prefers small and medium-sized prey, and will easily give up her meal when faced with other predators.

Leopards generally hunt small and medium-sized prey : gazelles, antelopes, impalas, baboons, vervet monkeys, warthogs, young wildebeests/zebras, porcupines, jackals, diks-diks, kudus, hares, snakes, guinea fowl and fish. In Algeria, it feeds on monkeys, deer, mouflons, wild boar, gazelles, dromedaries, porcupines and large antelopes. However, a study carried out in South Africa on the region's biggest predators showed that male leopards more often attacked animals two to three times their weight.

A male leopard can take down an adult female wildebeest or a weak or sub-adult zebra (although it can't take down an adult zebra in good physical condition, as these animals are very powerful and aggressive, just like the male wildebeest), but would then be unable, due to the heavy weight of these animals, to hoist them into a tree away from large predators such as lions or hyenas; in fact, leopards often forsake these large animals in favor of medium-sized mammals that they can carry.

Leopards have been known to kill eland (the world's largest antelope, weighing up to a ton) and silverback gorillas.

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