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Reproduction by and the development of leopards

26 April 2016

 

Identifying oestrus

By nature, leopards wander through their ranges in search of opportunities to hunt and reproduce. These ranges can be huge in arid environments with a poor prey base. However, as soon as a female is in oestrus and she is being attended by a male they stay in a limited part of the range until the female is no longer in oestrus after which a wanderlust takes hold of them again and they continue to travel widely. This continues until the onset of the next period of oestrus when powerful pheromone messages will bring a male and female together again. In the arid southern Kalahari, male and female leopards used mean ranges of 2104.4 and 1258.5 km² respectively and in one instance an adjacent male and female were a mean of 17.4 km apart daily, but they met four times over a period of five months at a mean frequency of once every 35 days, which falls within the oestrus period of a female leopard.

When they travel trough their ranges, females also lay down scent marks to advertise their sexual receptivity, and scent-marking increases during oestrus. If a female is not fertilized, oestrus will recycle every 20 to 50 days (mean: 45 days). The onset of oestrus is associated with increased head rubbing, rolling and calling. When a female and male that meet during mating are strangers to each other, it may lead to several noisy and aggressive encounters before mating occurs. However, when the pair are familiar with each other, the female will often roll on her back in front of the male or rub with her head against his cheeks before crouching in front of the male who will then mount her.

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Behaviour during oestrus

Once the penis has been inserted, copulation lasts for some three seconds and the female ovulates spontaneously. During copulation, the male commonly bites or grasps the female´s nape to keep her still. Copulation usually ends when the female turns and snarls at the male who will leap away. During the peak of oestrus, copulation occurs frequently and a case is known of one pair that copulated 60 times within a period of nine hours. Mating seldom... (Become a subscriber for more)

 

References:

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

Bothma, J du P & M D Bothma 2012. Leopard range size and conservation area size in the southern Kalahari. Koedoe 54(1), Art.#1076, 4 pages.http:dx.doi/org/10.412/koedoe.v54i.1076.

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

Sunquist, M and F Sunquist 2002. Wild cats of the world. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pages 330 - 333.

Skinner, J D & C T Chimimba (Eds) 2005. The mammals of the southern African subregion, third edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pages 385 - 390.

article by Prof J du P Bothma

 

 

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