|The leopard is a member of the cat family. Like all cats, it is a carnivorous or meat-eating animal. Its sharp, scissor-like back teeth and retractable claws are the leopard's principal weapons, used for catching its prey. These together with is powerful body, strong legs, its acute sense of hearing and a pair of large eyes with excellent vision, make the leopard an efficient hunter.Like human fingerprints, he spots on a leopard's coat are unique, and each cat may be recognized by its individual markings. The thickness of a leopard's coat, the degree of spotting and the variations in coat color are indications of its particular habitat and the climate it inhabits. for example, leopards found in cold, mountainous areas of northern China, have long thick coats. The Middle Eat leopards have light coats with large spots while the Malay Peninsular leopards are mostly black, providing excellent camouflage in the thick tropical rain forests.|
Except for brief periods of courtship, mating and motherhood, the leopard is nearly always solitary. when a leopard reaches adulthood, it shuns companionship; doing everything on its own. It also spends much of its days resting alone in trees, climbing down only at twilight to hunt.
Leopards are remarkably adaptable to all kinds of environment and climate. They are found in Africa, southern Asia, the Middle East and the Far East. Their willingness to eat protein in almost any form, ranging from tiny beetles to wildebeests several times their own size, accounts for their remarkable ability to survive and even thrive. Water is surprisingly not a necessity for the survival of the leopard. It is able to obtain sufficient moisture from the blood of its victims.
Despite its great adaptability, the number of leopards in the wild has fallen dramatically since the turn of the century. The encroachment of humans into leopard habitat reduces the population of its usual prey. Inevitable, the leopards turn their attention to domestic animals. Thus, they are shot and poisoned in great numbers by farmers.
Leopards are also hunted down for their highly prized skin. During the 1960s and 1970s, 60000 skins were sold annually. Recent estimates put the total number of leopards deliberately killed each year in Africa alone at around 6000; 4000 of which are killed illegally. In the Far East they are hunted for use in traditional medicine.
Measures to protect and to check the decline of the leopard population have been taken by a number of African nations. they include the creation of game reserves and fur farms. these reserves not only safeguard the natural habitat of leopards, but they also generate funds from eco-tourism. the Amboseli National Park of Kenya alone generated US$40 million in 1990.Fur farms where leopards are reared for their skin is another revenue earner and option to reduce poaching.
According to analysts, the future of leopards remains bright as the protection of these cats proves useful to people and their government.