Thursday, August 28, 2014

African Leopard

I enjoy doing posts on animals as I learn a lot about them in the process. One of my big surprises has come from this post on leopards. I had always assumed leopards were limited to Africa, except for the snow leopard of the Himalayas. I am shocked to find that leopards have historically been found and are still found in small numbers in widely varying areas of the world, although the vast majority of them are found in Africa. Based on DNA tests done in the 1990s, it has been determined that there are nine leopard subspecies, none of which include the snow leopard (the closest relative of the snow leopard is actually the tiger, not the leopard). All of the leopards in sub-Saharan Africa are known as African leopards. Other subspecies are found in locations such as India, Indonesia, the Arabian Peninsula, the Russian Far East, Korea, China, Iran, Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Pakistan and Afghanistan. 
Photo by Jack Duckworth
Photo by Michael Lewin
Photo by Michael Lewin
Photo by Esmee Tooke
The African leopard can run up to 36 mph and has an amazing ability to climb trees while carrying a heavy carcass. Coat color and patterning vary a lot by habitat type. The rosettes on the coat are circular in East Africa, but are more square in southern Africa and larger in Asia. The yellow coat is more pale and cream colored in the desert, more gray in colder areas and a darker gold in the rain forest. 

I only saw one leopard in Africa. It was in Serengeti National Park, laying on a tree branch high up in a tree, and we were able to watch it for quite a while. 
Photo by Michael Lewin
Photo by Mark Edwards
Photo by John Mirau
Others in our group in a different vehicles saw multiple other leopards, in the Serengeti as well as Masai Mara. 
I love this picture: the leopard and it's spots in the shadows. Photo by Michael Lewin.
Mixing in with the background. Photo by Michael Lewin.
Photo by Michael Lewin
It is a fascinating and beautiful animal. 


  1. These leopards all look well-fed. Their speed and ability to climb trees with a carcass apparently serve them well.

  2. I would have guessed the cheetah is more dangerous/powerful based on size and body shape, but the leopard seems to get all the respect. I wish we'd seen more of them.