Leopards: Nature in Focus
Today, I’m telling you about the smallest of the big cats: leopards. Big cats have always captured the popular imagination: Simba and Nala, Shere Khan, Bagheera… We’ve all grown up with the adventures of charismatic big cats from our childhood’s favourite books and movies.
Powerful, agile and sleek, leopards are skilled hunters. Relying on stealth and camouflage, they will slowly creep up on their prey before pouncing at lightning speed. The unlucky prey won’t even know what hit them.
As nocturnal creatures, leopards hunt at night and rest in trees during the day. Their spotty fur gives them the perfect camouflage amongst the leaves. Famously good climbers, leopards haul their kill up a tree to keep it safe from scavengers. A male leopard can drag a kill three times its own weight. This could mean a small giraffe!!
They are solitary and highly adaptable creatures. They can live in a wide range of habitats including deserts, savannahs, rainforests and mountains, and are found across Africa and Asia. They have evolved to have darker or paler markings on their coat to blend in in different habitats around the world. Black leopards – also known as panthers – have dark coats better suited to forest and mountain habitats.
One last fun fact about leopards: whilst belonging to the Big Cats club, their roar is actually more like a bark!
Unfortunately, leopards are increasingly coming into contact with human settlements that are encroaching on their habitats. A menace to humans and their livestock, they are being killed in retaliation or to prevent further attacks. Leopard numbers have therefore been declining rapidly.
For a chance to encounter the most secretive of the big cats and help protect the future of the species, check out the Carnivore Conservation and Research project!
Project: Carnivore Conservation and Research
You will be based in the heart of Namibia, working towards protecting leopards by using modern conservation practices. As a volunteer, your time will be divided between two main activities: firstly, assisting the conservation team with tracking and monitoring the local leopards and cheetahs – you’ll be off on an African adventure! Secondly, you will spend time at the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary looking after its residents, varying from baboons to lions.