Finest locations to see leopards in Africa on safari – Lonely Planet

Video Finest locations to see leopards in Africa on safari – Lonely Planet

Leopards are among the many most tough of the massive cats to see within the wilderness of Africa, which can be why they’re one of many nice prizes of any safari. That, and the truth that that is one stunning cat, the epitome of feline grace.

Leopards are masters of stealth and of camouflage, and plenty of will watch you move with out you ever understanding that they’re there. And but, these are essentially the most adaptable and widespread of Africa’s cats. Learn on for our snapshot of Africa’s most enigmatic huge cat, and be taught the place finest to see them.

The rosettes on a leopard’s coat mimic dappled shade on foliage and grasses © Maggy Meyer / Shutterstock

Leopards: outlined by their spots

Leopards are outlined by their spots – in case you see one up shut, you’ll perceive why their intensely stunning coats have change into a worldwide vogue accent, as beloved by African strongman leaders as by high-street fashionistas. The spots are literally rosettes, a circle of black spots surrounding an orange core. Leopards spend a lot of their time in bushes or undergrowth, and these colors serve leopards properly, permitting them to change into one with the dappled foliage of leaves and grasses. In some forest areas, together with the Aberdare Mountains in Kenya’s highlands, leopards may be nearly completely black, though sightings are extraordinarily uncommon.

Learn extra: The place to go when: the perfect locations to go to by means of 2020

Muscular and never a lot smaller than feminine lions, male leopards can attain slightly below three metres-long, together with the tail, though round two metres is the norm. Leopards stand between 55cm- and 82cm-tall on the shoulder, and grownup males can weigh as a lot as 90kg; females are smaller than the males – the biggest feminine weighs in at simply 42kg.

A solitary species; a lone feminine in Zambia’s South Luangwa Nationwide Park © Philip Lee Harvey / Lonely Planet

A solitary cat

There are few extra solitary creatures within the animal kingdom than a male leopard. Besides when mating, male leopards spend their lives alone, both roaming searching for a territory or holding quick to 1 that they’ll combat to guard. Females are comparable – solitary by choice, territorial – besides after they have cubs.

Learn extra: The place you must go in your first safari in Africa

After a three-month being pregnant, feminine leopards give start to as few as one and as many as 4 cubs – between 50% and 90% of those cubs will die throughout their first 12 months, falling prey to noticed hyenas, lions, baboons and wandering male leopards wanting to mate with the mom. The cubs stay wholly depending on their moms for his or her first 12 months of life. The moms start to wean the cubs after a few months, and by 4 months the cubs are solely consuming meat from animals killed by their mom. Because the cubs develop, the mom will educate them the talents of searching – for each mom and offspring, that is essentially the most social time of a leopard’s life. When 18-months or two-years-old, a younger leopard will both go away its mom or the mom will drive it out to make its personal method on the earth and discover its personal territory.

Leopards often stalk their prey to inside 4 or 5 metres earlier than ambushing them © Jonathan Gregson / Lonely PLanet

The talent of the ambush kill

One motive leopards have proved so adaptable is that they’re keen to eat a variety of prey – leopards have been recorded consuming greater than 200 completely different species. That stated, a leopard has clear preferences: in Africa, impala, springbok and/or nyala routinely make up greater than half of a leopard’s eating regimen. In addition they generally eat warthogs, zebras, wildebeest and steenboks. Something bigger than these species would ordinarily be too huge for a lone leopard to kill and eat, though one exceptionally robust leopard was recorded bringing down a 900kg eland, the biggest of all antelope species. Leopards may even kill cubs of rival predators, together with lions, cheetahs and hyenas, whereas forest-dwelling leopards additionally eat primates.

Leopards often stay in shut proximity to human settlements, which implies that leopards can come into battle with folks when the previous kills home livestock and canines. Assaults on folks by leopards are uncommon.

Learn extra: A day on safari in Africa: what you possibly can anticipate in camp and within the wild

Leopards are predominantly ambush hunters, often after having stalked to inside 4 to 5 metres of their prey. For all of their stealth and skill to strategy prey with out detection, leopards are profitable solely between 5% and 38.5% of the time when attempting to make a kill. When they’re profitable, they kill prey by suffocation, clamping their jaws across the throat and/or muzzle of their kill. As a result of they’re solitary, leopards have discovered to defend their prey from extra quite a few lions and hyenas by carrying the carcass up into the branches of bushes – leopards are essentially the most expert tree-climbers of all the massive cats, even when hauling twice their very own physique weight with them – the place few different species can observe.

Leopards are sometimes present in bushes, the place they retailer their kills away from hyena, lions and different scavengers © Jonathan Gregson / Lonely PLanet

The leopard’s most well-liked atmosphere

In complete, leopards are present in an estimated 62 nations. The stronghold of the African leopard is in East Africa and Southern Africa. The species has largely disappeared from North Africa and is uncommon in West Africa and Central Africa. Past Africa, there are essential leopard populations within the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, India and Siberia; the Amur leopard is without doubt one of the most critically endangered sub-species of cats wherever on earth.

Learn extra: Are you prepared for a self-drive safari in Africa?

Leopards want woodlands – they want cowl so as to stalk their prey – and are most frequently discovered within the bushes and different foliage alongside riverbanks. In some locations, like alongside the Seronera River in Tanzania’s Serengeti Nationwide Park the place there are a lot of leopards, a leopard’s territory shall be fairly small and prolong alongside the river’s shoreline; the smallest recorded territory for a leopard is 5.6 sq km. In distinction, out within the arid Kalahari of Botswana and Namibia, the place water and prey are scarce, a leopard’s house vary can prolong throughout 2750 sq km.

Looking out from above, a leopard in Botswana’s Chobe Nationwide Park © Mint Pictures/ Artwork Wolfe/ Getty Pictures

The perfect locations to see leopards

Botswana: Botswana is great for recognizing leopards, and a testomony to the leopard’s adaptability – leopards are generally seen in watery habitats like Chobe Nationwide Park and the Okavango Delta, but additionally within the desert-like Central Kalahari Sport Reserve (CKGR). Kenya: Kenya’s parks are prime leopard-watching areas. Leopards are current all through the nation, however sightings are commonest within the Masai Mara Nationwide Reserve and the encircling community-run conservancies, in addition to Lake Nakuru and Tsavo West nationwide parks.Malawi: An rising safari vacation spot, Malawi deserves particular point out for Nyika Nationwide Park, house to greater than 100 leopards and sometimes noticed on evening wildlife drives.Namibia: Loads of leopards name Namibia house, however they’re typically extra elusive than elsewhere. Attempt the non-public reserves reminiscent of Okonjima and Erindi. The floodlit waterholes in Etosha Nationwide Park are additionally first rate shouts after darkish.South Africa: Leopards are discovered throughout the nation, however the northeast is finest, particularly in Kruger Nationwide Park and the encircling reserves (reminiscent of Sabi Sand). Elsewhere, strive Mapungubwe Nationwide Park, Madikwe Sport Reserve or Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.Tanzania: Tanzania’s Serengeti is without doubt one of the finest locations on the planet for watching leopards. Sightings are additionally doable in Tarangire Nationwide Park, Selous Sport Reserve, Katavi Nationwide Park and elsewhere.Zambia: The nationwide parks of Kafue and South Luangwa Parks are identified for his or her leopard sightings.Zimbabwe: The nationwide parks of Mana Swimming pools and Hwange have wholesome leopard populations, although sightings usually are not as frequent as you may anticipate.

Leopards in peril?

The leopard’s strengths – the great thing about its coat, the adaptability that permits it to stay throughout many various habitats and near people – additionally places it in hurt’s method. Leopards are a lot sought-after by trophy hunters. They’re additionally typically killed in retaliation for killing livestock. And they’re additionally extremely vulnerable to the clearing of forests. The leopard is at the moment listed as Susceptible by the Worldwide Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Learn extra: Turning fantasy into actuality: the white lions of Timbavati

Cat conservation NGO Panthera has applied one significantly ingenious measure that has been a essential conservation success story in South Africa and Zambia. Within the former, a leopard-skin scarf or cape has lengthy been the standard apparel for male members of the five-million-strong Zulu Shembe Church. However with leopards more and more underneath menace, Panthera created, after which launched, an imitation faux-leopard-skin different that has been embraced by the church’s management and most members. An identical strategy in Barotseland, near Liuwa Plain Nationwide Park in southwestern Zambia, has seen the Barotse Royal Institution agree to exchange actual pelts with fake fur of their elaborate annual procession between their moist and dry season headquarters.

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