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Description: The Leopard

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Hunting behaviour of leopards

7 November 2013

 

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Leopards are mostly opportunistic hunters and in locating prey, they mostly depend on vision and the eyes function in a range of light conditions ranging from bright sunlight to almost complete darkness. With its large eyes and pupils a leopard can therefore regulate the amount of light that enters its eyes by dilating the pupils or by contracting them to almost vertical slits. A special light-reflective tapetum lucidum layer beneath the retina increases the sensitivity of the eye to light. Moreover, leopards have binocular vision and can judge distances accurately when pouncing on prey. The whiskers improves the leopard’s awareness of prey in the dark by detecting changes in air flow currents around the prey. When hunting, they are held forward in a fan-like way on either side of the face and are moved forward to form a net in front of the mouth just before contact is made with the prey to detect any dodging behaviour by the prey in the final seconds of the hunt. Small prey animals are enveloped by the whiskers to warn a leopard of any attempts to wriggle free.

Leopards seldom follow the assumed ritual of stalking, chasing and killing when hunting and often kill some prey simply by pouncing on them. Leopards will attempt to kill whatever prey they come across, their diet usually reflects the prey animals that are most abundant in a given region. The availability of prey depends on the habitat and habits of prey animals. In Africa south of the Sahara Desert the diet of a leopard includes at least 92 different types of prey. Various types of mammal are most frequently hunted, but leopards also feed on birds, even including vultures.

Much like other types of cat, leopards do develop preferences for a specific type of prey from time to time and become habituated to hunting them. In the southern Kalahari one adult male leopard learned... (Become a subscriber for more)

 

References:

Bothma, J du P and R J Coertze 2004. Motherhood increases hunting success in southern Kalahari leopards. Journal of Mammalogy 85(4): 756 - 760.

Bothma, J du P, N van Rooyen and E A N le Riche 1997. Multivariate analysis of the hunting tactics of Kalahari leopards. Koedoe 40(1): 41 - 56.

Bothma, J du P and C Walker 1999. Larger carnivores of the African savannas. Pretoria: J L van Schaik, pp 61 - 91.

Sunquist, M and F Sunquist 2002. Wild cats of the world. Chicago, Chicago University Press, pp 318 - 342.

article by: Prof J du P Bothma

 

 

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