Experience the relief as you eventually spot a long, spotted tail draping from a branch of an acacia tree. Feel the frustration as the leopard you are following miraculously disappears into the bush. Sense the elation as they reappear the following day eating an unfortunate impala back in the same acacia tree. The elusive behaviour of the leopard makes it by far the most difficult of the Big 5 animals to observe but the most rewarding for sure.
The African leopard automatically becomes the species most travellers are desperate to observe due to its membership of the so called Big 5 group of animals. However, its elusive behaviour adds to its appeal by playing into our own inherent human behaviour of wanting what we can’t have.
Leopards belong to the genus panthera alongside their closest living relatives the tiger, lion, jaguar and snow leopard. They prefer to lead a solitary existence after weaning from their mothers at approximately 18 months of age, only coming into contact with other leopards to reproduce. They are renowned for their adaptability with regards their diet and the habitats they are able to survive and thrive. Their diet is somewhat dictated by availability and the presence of larger competitors. They are known to prey on over 100 different prey species, ranging from insects to eland but preferring small to medium sized ungulates such as dik-dik and impala.
Although elusive and relatively difficult to observe, it is possible to spot leopards during daylight hours. However, they are usually inactive and relaxing on the branches of an acacia tree protecting a kill. A nonchalant swish of a tail draping from the branches is usually what will alert you to their presence. However, your chances of witnessing exciting behaviour increase significantly from dusk until dawn as their activity levels increase dramatically. This is a very exciting time to be out in the bush and one of the reasons why we are such fans of recommending night drives as an activity.
Although leopards can be difficult to track down it isn’t impossible and in some wildlife reserves their presence will leave you wondering what all the fuss is about. It is therefore recommended to discuss your desires with us so we can design an itinerary that significantly increases your chances of observing these shy and secretive big cats.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed the leopard as a vulnerable species with population trends reported as decreasing. Exact populations are unknown but it is estimated there are approximately 100,000 individuals remaining in Africa. Although this may appear to be a sizeable population, concern is born from the fact their historic distribution range has decreased by a reported 49- 75%. The main threats to their survival are indiscriminate killing for their fur, conflict with human beings and their livestock, habitat loss and fragmentation, prey reduction caused by illegal hunting and poorly managed trophy hunting.
By electing to visit these secretive animals with Ultimate Wildlife Adventures you are contributing to their protection and chances of future survival, as well as signing up for an experience of a lifetime.
Contact us to discuss how we can include the leopard in your perfect wildlife holiday itinerary.
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