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Leopards of the Serengeti - 'Near Threatened' conservation status

The leopards of the Serengeti are the smallest of the four big cats - after the lion, tiger, and jaguar. However, they are bigger than the cheetah. Highly adaptable, their habit ranges from rainforest to desert terrain, with their size often determined by diet. And because they are opportunistic hunters who eat just about anything they catch, they are considered adaptable in their diet as well.

Serengeti leopard in tree
Karin Leperi

Elusive, solitary, and largely nocturnal, leopards are agile cats known for having acute hearing and keen eyesight. Coupled with natural stealth capabilities, their preferred mode in taking down prey is by pouncing on them. (Cheetahs are known for their speed and chasing prey as opposed to leopards who usually hunt at night and prefer to stalk and pounce). Also known as natural swimmers, their climbing agility is legendary. That’s why their favorite abode during the day is sleeping in an acacia tree, often times with a gazelle draped over the tree in front of it. After a kill, they drag their catch into a tree where they can feed on it and rest. It is thought this is done to protect their catch from marauding lions and hyenas.

They are a solitary cats throughout their lives, coming together only to mate. That is why you will never see two of them together. (This is contrary to lions, who are very sociable animals). Male leopards do not even help with raising cubs who reach maturity by the time they are two years-old. However, they will defend territory against other male leopards who routinely kill cubs in order to improve their mating prospects.

Despite the adaptability of the leopard, over 40% of their traditional territorial range in Africa has vanished. Their conservation status is classified as 'Near Threatened.'