Meet The Animals

Black Leopard

Meet Enoch (m), born Apr. 26, 2008

Classification:

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Panthera
Species: Panthera pardus

Personal Info:

Enoch lives with another black leopard named Silhouette, a tiger named Vista, and a lioness named Kora. He is the most agile of the four, and he loves to demonstrate that agility on his keepers by jumping on their backs. It’s all fun and games for Enoch, although the keepers will tell you those claws don’t feel so good when they’re digging in. To the delight of his keepers, Enoch spends most of his playtime wrestling with Kora or amusing himself with his boomer ball. Even though Enoch is fed regularly three times a week, it seems he’s endlessly craving a chicken or meat snack.

Habitat:

Black panthers live chiefly in the hot, dense tropical rainforests of South and Southeast Asia. They are mainly in Southwestern China, Burma, Nepal, Southern India, Indonesia, and the southern part of Malaysia. Black leopards are more common than light-colored leopards. They are less common in tropical Africa but have been reported from Ethiopia, from the forests of Mount Kenya and from the Aberdares; however, their population in these areas is sparse. One of the reasons that black panthers are able to live in such a variety of habitats is that they can eat many types of animals. Their food includes various species of mammals, reptiles, and birds, all of which live in different habitats.

Physical:

The typical head and body length of a leopard is between 37 and 65 inches, while the tail can be between 24 to 43 inches. The shoulder height is 18 to 31 inches. Males are about 30% larger than females, weighing 66 to 200 pounds compared to 51 to 130 pounds for females. Melanistic leopards (very dark brown) are commonly called black panthers. However, there is no such animal. The dark color, called melansim, is due to a recessive gene. Melanistic cubs can be born to spotted parents. Although melanistic, the black leopard has the same pattern of spots as any other leopard. There are no solid-black big cats. “Panthera” is a Latin word used to describe the genus and species of many large cats. For example, the scientific species name of a lion is Panthera leo, while that of a tiger is Panthera tigris.

Life Cycle:

Leopards may mate all year round. The estrous cycle lasts about 46 days and the female is in heat for 6 to 7 days. The gestation period is 3 to 3 ½ months. The number of cubs born can range from 1 to 6, but a typical liter is 2 to 3. The mortality of cubs is estimated at 40 to 50% during the first year. Cubs are born with closed eyes, which open 4 to 9 days after birth. At 1 year of age, leopard young can probably fend for themselves but remain with the mother for 18 to 24 months. Maturity is reached at 3 years. Leopards live 12 to 15 years in the wild and up to 23 years in captivity.

Behavior:

Leopards are nocturnal, hunting by night while spending most the day resting although, radio-tracking and scat analysis in West Africa showed that rainforest leopards are more likely to be diurnal (day active). Adult leopards are solitary and territorial and will only associate long enough to mate. Occupation of a territory is advertised by marking with urine and feces and clawing the bark of trees. Although they are solitary animals and do not live in families, leopards nevertheless have strong maternal bonds. Even though the young become independent at about 22 months, the mother may continue to share kills with her offspring until they become totally self-sufficient. The leopard is classically feline in its hunting behavior, specializing in stalking and ambushing its prey. A kill is usually dragged away from other predators and often stored in trees out of the reach of lions and hyenas. Leopards are renowned for their great strength and can haul a carcass greater than their own weight up the trunk of a tree. The muscles attached to the scapula are exceptionally strong, which enhance their ability to climb trees. This great strength means a big adult leopard is capable of killing prey up to 10 times its own weight.

Diet:

Feeding on a greater diversity of prey than other members of the Panthera species, leopards will eat any warm-blooded prey, from mice and hares to large antelope. But a leopard is the supreme opportunist and will also eat birds, reptiles, rodents, and even insects. They select their prey focusing on small herds, dense habitat, and low risk of injury.

Fun Facts:

  • Although smaller than other members of the Panthera genus, they are able to take large prey due to their massive skulls that facilitate powerful jaw muscles.
  • Although they may at first look solid black, their spotted pattern is visible from the right angle.
  • Leopards can hear five times more sounds than humans, even the ultrasonic squeaks made by mice.
  • They are the largest cats to climb trees regularly.
  • Compared to other members of the Felidae family, the leopard has relatively short legs and a long body with a large skull.
  • They can run at over 36 mph, leap over 20 feet horizontally, and jump up to 10 feet vertically.
  • Leopards produce a number of vocalizations, including grunts, roars, growls, meows, and “sawing” sounds.

Ecology and Conservation:

All leopard subspecies are either endangered or threatened. Leopard-skin coats were legal for many years and are still sold secretly. Many trees in leopard habitats have been cut down for building projects. And poachers are still killing leopards for their whiskers. In addition, because leopards prey on livestock, they are frequently poisoned by ranchers trying to protect their animals. The U.S. Endangered Species Act and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) help protect leopards, as do wildlife parks in their home countries.