Leopard (Panthera pardus)
What’s in a name?
Leopards have been known to humans throughout history, appearing in the art and mythology of many countries, including ancient Greece, Persia and Rome. In antiquity, a leopard was believed to be a hybrid of a lion and a panther, as reflected in its name, a Greek compound of leon ("lion") and pardos ("male panther").
All in the family
Leopards are the smallest of the four big cats in the genus Panthera, the other three being the lion, tiger and jaguar. These are the only cats that can roar.
Where do leopards live?
There are nine leopard species: only one, the African leopard, lives in Africa. The rest, including the critically endangered Amur leopard, live across Asia.
Hide and seek
Leopards living in golden grasslands have a tawny coat covered with dark, irregular circles called "rosettes," providing excellent camouflage. Black leopards and jaguars, found primarily in rainforest, are often called black panthers. The leopard’s ability to hide make sightings rare.
In the still of the night…
…leopards wake to action. Hunting begins after dusk, once the stealthy nocturnal predator wakes after dozing all day in a tree or the shade of a cave.
Happy in a host of habitats
The leopard’s adaptability has enabled it to live in a wide variety of habitats from subtropical jungle to desert, as humans encroach further into their territory. They prefer riverine forest, dense bush and savanna, though leopards in the Russian Far East inhabit temperate forests where winter temperatures dip to 13 °F.
Leopards are loners
The leopard prefers a life of seclusion, and they tend to avoid one another. Highly territorial, they only tolerate a trespasser into their home turf to mate. Leopards mark their territory with urine and leave claw marks on trees.
After a gestation of about 100 days, females give birth to a litter of 2 or 3 cubs in a cave, rock crevice or hollow tree. Cubs are kept hidden for the first 2 months. The mother takes them hunting at 4 months, and the family may stay together for up to two years.
No picky eaters here
Agile, stealthy hunters, leopards prey on almost anything that moves, from insects, rodents, birds, fish, monkeys and baboons to large antelope more than double their own body weight, whose carcass they can haul up a tree, safe from scavengers, to dine upon for several days. Only hyenas rival the leopard in their readiness to gorge on rotten meat
Feline multisport athletes
While leopards are known for their climbing ability, they are also fast and agile, able to run nearly 40 mph and jump more than 20 feet horizontally and about 10 feet vertically. Leopards are also strong swimmers, comfortably at home in the water.
WWF's Work with Leopards
Powerful and graceful, the elusive leopard is a master of stealth and survival. The greatest threats to the leopard are revenge killings for attacks on livestock and illegal hunting for the highly prized furs. WWF works to prevent human-wildlife conflict by engaging the full scope of society, including governments, communities and consumers. TRAFFIC, a joint program between WWF and the IUCN, aims to stop wildlife trade by establishing more effective trade regulations, improving law enforcement and increasing public awareness.