The Leopard (Felis pardus Linnaeus, 1758) is one of the most successful big cats of our time. It’s ability to adapt to different climates and habitats enabled spreading out of Africa into Asia. They live in diverse habitats such as forests, subtropical and tropical savannas, grasslands, rocky and mountainous regions, and even deserts. The leopard can live in both warm and cold climates. It has a very broad food base ranging from insects to large mammals.
In Africa this cat is exceptionally adapted to climb trees. It’s signature hunting style is ambush predation by high diving from trees. Using gravity makes attacks more powerful and being immediately next to a tree is crucial for securing prey. Leopards can lift carcasses of large animals like antelopes high up into trees and prevent access of other top predators. Moving out of Africa might have been a useful life choice reducing competition with other top predators. Reduced competition lead to abandoning of arboreal way of life and adapt to different geographies. The motto “run, hide, be invisible” is a perfect summary of survival strategy of the leopard. They live like spies behind enemy lines indeed.
As a solitary hunter, sharing it’s territory with social animals such as hyaenas, baboons and lions requires stealth. This strategy is also used by other solitary big cats such as mountain lions and jaguars. Males of solitary big cats are known to carry out quite long distance bouts. These individuals can sometimes surprise us by revealing their presence by fatal accidents. Leopards venture out of their habitats highly fragmented by human activities and can occur as far north as Turkey.
Leopards continue to be the subject of long-term behavioral study by prominent wildlife researchers.