Leopard, Sri Lanka, Asia

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Sri Lankan Leopard Facts | Sri Lanka Wildlife Guide

Currently leopards only exist in fragmented populations in Sri Lanka. They are the most elusive of the large cats, and there have been very few studies of their behavior on the island. They are primarily nocturnal ambush hunters, targeting prey as large as water buffalo. Unlike other leopard subspecies, the Sri Lankan leopard rarely carries kills into trees. This is likely due to the lack of other large predators who might try to steal their prey.

The beautiful spotted coat of each leopard is as individual as a fingerprint. Unfortunately, those coats are in high demand and poaching is one of the biggest threats to their survival across their range. Habitat loss and fragmentation also put them at risk. If they are to be protected, it will be critical to study these cats more closely and learn how many are left, where and when they are most active, what prey species they depend on during different seasons and in different areas, and where they need corridors to allow gene flow between sub-populations.

Leopards have been observed to use nearly all terrestrial habitats on Sri Lanka and are equally at home in the dry scrub forest as in the dense rainforest, and from sea level to the montane cloud forests.

Except for mothers with young, leopards are extremely solitary when they are not mating. Several females’ territories may overlap a single male’s territory, but males will rarely tolerate the presence of a competitor. Breeding can happen at any time of year, and usually results in the birth of one or two cubs.

As the island’s top land predator, leopards will eat nearly anything they come across, including monkeys, birds, reptiles, all species of deer and even buffalo calves that are generally larger than themselves. They are critical for keeping prey species at a healthy population level. With no competition from other large cats like lions or tigers, the leopards found in Sri Lanka have become the largest leopards in the world. Males are at least 30% larger than females, weighing in at as much as 150 pounds.

Leopards are notoriously difficult to count due to their secretive nature, but current estimates place the population at fewer than 1,000 individuals. They are listed as endangered.

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