Leopard

 

Leopard

The leopard (Panthera pardus) /ˈlɛpərd/ is one of the five “big cats” in the genus Panthera. It is a member of the family Felidae with a wide range in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia.

Compared to other members of Felidae, the leopard has relatively short legs and a long body with a large skull. It is similar in appearance to the jaguar, but has a smaller, lighter physique. Its fur is marked with rosettes similar to those of the jaguar, but the leopard’s rosettes are smaller and more densely packed, and do not usually have central spots as the jaguar’s do. Both leopards and jaguars that are melanistic are known as black panthers.

The leopard is distinguished by its well-camouflaged fur, opportunistic hunting behaviour, broad diet, and strength (which it uses to move heavy carcasses into trees), as well as its ability to adapt to various habitats ranging from rainforest to steppe, including arid and montane areas, and its ability to run at speeds of up to 58 kilometres per hour (36 mph).

It is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List because leopard populations are declining in large parts of their range. They are threatened by habitat loss and pest control. Their habitats are fragmented and they are illegally hunted so that their pelts may be sold in wildlife trade for medicinal practices and decoration.