The African leopard
Belonging to the Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Chordata, Mammalia Class, Order Carnivora, Felidae Family, Panthera genus, P. pardus Species, P.p. pardus as Sub Species, the African leopard is one of the subspecies of leopard that are endemic to the parts of Africa including Uganda where it is encountered on Uganda safaris.
It can be noted that the African leopards possess a range of color variation that is shaped by the habitat and location. The leopard coat tends to vary from pale yellow stretching to deep gold and at times black. The African leopard is patterned with black rosettes whereas its head, the belly and lower limbs feature solid black spots as seen on safari in Uganda. In terms of weight, the male leopards are noted to be larger with an average weight of 60kg and the 90kg being their maximum whereas the females features 35kg to 40kg on average
The African Leopard thrives in greater part of Sub Saharan Africa occupying savannah, rain forests and semi-arid habitats except sandy deserts. In fact, leopards can thrive in habitats with a minimum of 50mm average rain fall per year but can still live in areas below this rainfall amount along the river courses. The leopards also occur in raised mountainous slopes as they have been reported in the Rwenzori Mountains of Uganda one of the famous Uganda safari sites and Virunga Volcanoes. The Leopards are also noted to drink thermal water with temperatures of 37 degrees Celsius as observed on the National Park of Virunga. Generally leopards are noted to be successful to adapting to the settled environments and altered natural habitats provided there is no intense disturbance.
It can be noted that the leopards tend to be more active in the period from the sunset and the sun rise and tend to secure much of their prey during this time. The leopards are noted to have a considerable ability to change with change in the availability of prey and thus feature wider dietary base. The diet of the leopard features mostly the small grazers while the larger ungulates are uncommon. The leopards can consume from dung beetles to the mature elands which can stretch to 900kgs. There are 92 species of prey that have been noted in Sub Saharan Africa to be consumed by the leopards. These species include; the hyraxes, antelopes both small and large, anthropods and hares.
The leopards greatly target the medium sized ungulates which are between 20kg to 80kg and experiments carried out in various protected areas like Serengeti National Park, the leopard are noted to have had less successful hunts during the day but the dawn seemed to be fine. They enjoyed the meat of Thompson gazelles in the dry season but regularly they could get hold of young and old Impala. Leopards also occasionally preyed on warthogs, reedbuck, dik-dik, wildebeest topi calves among others. In the rain forests of the sub Saharan Africa especially the central Africa, they feature mostly duikers and a range of minor primates. They keep their kills in trees and often pull larger prey than you can believe up to the trees something that can be luckily observed on safaris in Uganda. They secure their prey by suffocation here they grab its throat before biting deep with their jaws that are powerful. In times of food scarcity, leopards can even attack domestic animals.
Regarding threats, the leopards are threatened by habitat destruction and remarkable persecution resulting from the perception that they prey on domestic animals. Being among the Big five, they are also prone to trophy hunting.