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Description: The Leopard

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The activity patterns of leopards

19 July 2013

The basic requirement of any organism is to survive, and to do that it has to reproduce and have food and water. These requirements provide the stimulus for activity. Because leopards occur in diverse environments they must adapt their activity patterns to that of their prey and the environment in which they live.

When a leopard moves around in pitch darkness, the whiskers are used as sensors to detect changes in air currents and avoid solid objects. Leopards are stealthy and may come close to humans and their structures without being detected. In 1990, for example, three leopards were found to be living in an abandoned steam engine in the middle of Kampala in Uganda, while Nairobi leopards from the adjacent Nairobi National Park often visit the city at night. Night-time visits by leopards to our own cities such as Cape Town and Pretoria are also known and domestic dogs that disappear for no obvious reason my have become prey to them.

Despite being generally regarded as nocturnal animals, leopards are active in the day if their prey is active then. Moreover, leopards are also more active in the day where lions do not occur. In the Kalahari, female leopards spend most of the day in the summer under thick vegetation or in aardvark burrows because the open sand surface can reach temperatures of 70° C at mid-day. Males are too large for aardvark burrows and they shelter under thick vegetation where it is cool and where they remain undetected while still seeing all that happens around them. Leopards that are disturbed at rest will not flee more than 0.5 to 1.0 km away, often only around 100 m, before coming to rest again... (To read and see more become a Green subscriber)

 

References:

Bailey, T N 1990. The African leopard: ecology and behaviour of the solitary felid. New York: Columbia University Press.

Bothma, J du P 1998. Carnivore ecology in arid lands. Berlin: Springer.

Bothma, J du P & C Walker 1999. Larger Carnivores of the African savannas. Pretoria: J L van Schaik.

Sunquist, M & Sunquist F 2002. Wild cats of the world. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

By: Prof J du P Bothma

 

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