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>> Wild Animals in India >>
Leopard The Leopard is a striking
looking feline. One of the Big Cats, the Leopard with its golden yellow coat marked
with rosettes, is a compact hunting machine. Leopards are also called Panthers
and the rare Black Panther, a leopard with a completely black coat, is also seen
in India. Black Panthers have been immortalized as Bagheera the Black Panther
in Rudyard Kipling's well loved children's classic The Jungle Book.
Leopards are found in densely forested areas of India
including many National Parks and wildlife sanctuaries. Across the world, leopards
have the widest distribution of any of the Big Cats and are found in Africa, Asia
Minor and the Middle East, across south East Asia, including Sri Lanka and Java
and further North in China and Russia.
It is estimated that there are around 14,000
leopards in India. Worldwide the population of leopards is estimated to be around
100,000 with the majority of leopards found in Africa.
Leopards grow to be 5 to 8 feet long
and can weigh from 60 to 210 pounds. The leopard has a compact body covered with
rosette shaped marks and a thick tail. The coat of a leopard can vary in color
from yellow to reddish brown. In South Asia Black Panthers are often seen. The
coat of the panther is completely black due a genetic difference. Often some of
cubs in one litter can be all lack while others have the normal color of leopards.
The white tip of the leopards tail is held upright by mother leopards while walking
through dense undergrowth. This helps to guide their cubs and ensure that they
are found in thick forests, mountainous terrain, open grasslands and even in dry
scrub jungle. Leopards can adapt to varied environments and this has helped it
survive where many other Big Cats have been severely affected by habitat destruction.
Leopards prefer forest boundary areas, where they can observe their prey from
the trees and emerge for the kill, only to retreat with their prey back to the
safety of the tree line.
Leopards are carnivores and hunt for prey. They eat anything from large insects
and rodents to wild boar, wild fowl, and the young of buffalo, Gaur and - in areas
of human encroachment - domestic cattle and dogs. Their strength and agility allow
Leopards to drag their prey up into the trees and keep it safe from scavengers.
Leopards therefore are more successful predators than Cheetahs, with whom they
share a habitat in parts of Africa, since Cheetahs often lose their prey to scavengers
such as Lions or Hyenas.
Leopards are solitary carnivores. A breeding pair may be seen together briefly.
The mother leopard brings up cubs on her own. Cubs remain with their mother for
up to two years after which they are old enough to fend for themselves. Leopards
can live for up to 20 years in the wild. In zoos leopards have been known to live
for over 25 years. Leopards have been known to turn man-eater as a result of injury
that prevents them from hunting or old age. A famous example is the Man Eating
Leopard of Rudraprayag, which was shot by the hunter and naturalist Jim Corbett,
after whom the Corbett National Park is named.
The loss of habitat as well as human population pressure
on wildlife reserves in India is a matter of concern for leopard populations in
India. There have been a number of incidents in recent years where leopards have
entered Indian cities from nearby wildlife sanctuaries.
see Leopards in most of the large national parks in India except in dry desert
or cold high altitude areas on India wildlife tours.