African Leopard (Panthera pardus pardus)
Leopards are the most widely distributed wild cats, and occupy a broad variety of habitats, from rainforests to deserts and from the fringes of urban areas to remote mountain ranges. In Africa, leopards inhabit over 40 countries, ranging from Senegal to South Africa. In West- and Central Africa, leopards are reported to occur in most countries, although the frequency of sightings shows large variation. There are no reliable continent-wide estimates of population size in Africa. The leopard is endangered worldwide and listed in Appendix I of CITES, because of its declining range and population, it is listed as a “Near Threatened” species by the IUCN. The leopard is a member of the Felidae family and the smallest of the four “big cats” in the genus Panthera. Like other cats leopards hunt solitary and have an extremely variable home range, which largely depends on the amount and distribution of available prey. Leopards show a great diversity in size. Males are about 30% larger than females, weighing 30 to 91 kg compared to 23 to 60 kg for females. The leopard has an exceptional ability to adapt to changes in prey availability, and has a very broad diet. Although, it prefers to hunt ungulates with a body weight of 20 to 50 kg, the leopard also eats rodents, reptiles, amphibians, insects, birds and fish.
West- and Central Africa
Leopards appear to be least numerous in West- and Central Africa, possibly due to the high levels of hunting for their skins, and the lack of food. Skins and canines are still widely traded domestically in some central and West African countries where parts are used in traditional rituals and sold openly in villages and cities.
In Africa the leopards occur in numerous protected areas across their range, the majority of the population occurs outside of protected areas, necessitating improved conflict mitigation measures.
- Pest control
- Prey depletion
- Habitat fragmentation, degradation and conversion
- Human-wildlife conflict
Regional populations are increasingly threatened by habitat fragmentation and degradation, as well as persecution by local people to protect livestock.
Poaching for the fur trade have further substantially decreased the leopard population.