Animal introduction: Carla – the leopard

This post was first published on my Swedish blog as “Djurpresentation: Carla – leoparden”.

 

Another one of my absolute favourites on Chipangali was Carla, a female leopard.

 

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Who is Carla?

Carla is about 6 years old and the softest leopard in the whole world, if I could make this assumption without really knowing that many leopards. She loves cuddling and as soon as she sees you she starts purring and pressing herself against the fence, so you could reach her and touch her.

 

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20161225-img_6086-copy2000She will simply steal your heart away as soon as you see her!

cala

 

What’s a leopard?

The leopardpanthera pardus, is one of the five of the Panthera cat family. You’ll find it in both Africa and Asia.

Its fur is orange yellow with black spots, which are completely individual. There is not one single leopard with the same  pattern as another – that’s pretty awesome when you think about it.

  • length: between 1-2 meters
  • height: up to 80 cm
  • weight: between 30-70 kilos
  • tail: not included in the length, the tail can get almost 1 meter long

There is a mutation in this species, a melanism, which makes the leopard all black. This is called a black panther or just panther. Previously we, idiotic humans, believed this was a different species, but now we know better: it’s just a black leopard, or jaguar (or cougar for that matter!) depending on where you find it.

 

Where and how does the leopard live?

You’ll find the leopard here and there; in woods, jungle, lowlands, open grasslands, deserts, mountains, etc. It is very adaptive.

 

They love climbing in trees and if you’re very lucky you might be able to glimpse a tail between the tree tops. Not usually though…

 

The leopard is most active at dusk and dawn; and during the night, of course, but it can hunt pretty much any time during the day and it can catch anything, whatever it feels like catching. It usually hunts as a regular cat, by ambushing its prey, but it can also climb trees to catch (or guard) its prey. Usually the leopard kills by suffocating their prey, alternatively break their spine. After that it can drag its prey up in the trees to stop others from sinking their teeth in.

 

20170115-img_6847-bw2000Chereza is keeping watch…

 

The leopard lives, just like the serval, alone. During mating season and when a female has babies it’s of course different. The babies stay with their mother until they’re sexually mature, which is usually between 2-2,5 years, depending on whether they’re female or male. In the wild only 50% of the babies survive, and an adult leopard usually only lives up to 10-12 years. However, they can get well over 20 years in captivity.

 

Today there are 9 sub species, sadly many of them listed as endangered (redlisted as “vulnerable”), because as with the serval – humans are a huge threat to the leopard.

 

What is a jaguar?

A jaguarpanthera onca, is the largest cat on the american continent. You’ll find it in the tropical parts of North, Central, and South America.

The jaguar’s fur is orange yellow with black spots, the same as the leopards’, but the jaguar also has smaller black dots inside the larger spots, if you look closely.

  • length: between 112 and 185 cm
  • height: up to 76 cm
  • weight: a male could weigh between 56 and 113 kilos, and a female slightly less
  • tail: the tail length is between 40 and 75 cm

As well as with the leopard, there is a melanism mutation with the jaguar = the black panther.

Where and how does the jaguar live?

Just like its African brother, the jaguar can be found in different habitats, as long as there is water. It’s not really that into mountain areas as the leopard is. It does however, enjoy climbing trees, and swims quite often and quite well. It usually hunts on the ground.

The jaguar is also a loner, except during mating season. The babies don’t stay with the mother as long as the leopards’, and leave her after 1-2 years.

They are mostly nocturnal, but it’s not unusual to see them moving about during day time. Just like its African brother it’s most active around dusk and dawn. While active the jaguar can walk several kilometers without stopping for either food or drink.

When hunting it’s the only cat who kills by piercing the skull of its prey. It eats all types of meat, whatever it can find.

In the wild a jaguar can live up to 12 years, while in captivity as long as 22.

There are 3 sub species of jaguars and the cat is redlisted as “Near threatened”, which is not as bad as for the leopard, but still bad enough!

 

Then what is the difference between a leopard and a jaguar?

The jaguar and the leopard are quite similar in appearance, and it’s quite hard for the untrained eye to spot the differences, but the simplest trick might be to know where you are… if you see it in the wild, that is… The jaguar only exists on the American continents. All others are leopards. Easy piecey!

If you still want to practice to tell the difference, here are some tips:

  • Jaguar
    • the black spots on the fur has a smaller black dot inside
    • their built is sturdier, larger head
    • shorter tail
    • they weigh more, in general they become larger
    • they kill by piercing their teeth through the skull of their prey
  • Leopard
    • their built is smaller, smaller head
    • longer tail
    • they weigh less, in general they are smaller
    • they kill through suffocation

And what is a panther again?

  • Panther
    • it is black, but you can quite often see the spots “shining” through, if you look closely
    • it could be a leopard, a jaguar or a cougar

 

So, I’ll end this introduction with some sad news about the leopard’s survival… Please, don’t let this beautiful animal become extinct!

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