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Leopard Hunting In Zimbabwe
The African leopard is the most beautiful and graceful of the big cats found in Africa. Considered to be the most evasive and seldom seen wild cat, leopard hunting requires cunning and stealth.
About The African Leopard
Despite remaining the least sighted wild cat during the day, the African leopard (Panthera Pardus Pardus) is, in fact, the most widely distributed big cat in Africa.
Although these powerful animals are close relations to lions, jaguars, and tigers, they are vastly different when it comes to their coat camouflage.
Most leopards are a light tawny color with distinctive dark spots called rosettes. So-called because they resemble the shape of roses. The rosettes are made up of groups of 5 to 6 spots shaped in a tight circle. They are found on the body with solid black spots on the head, belly, sides and lower legs.
The leopard has small round ears and very long whiskers which grow from dark spots on the face.
This graceful animal has a long body with fairly short legs and its famous long tail. Their body length in total ranges between 1 and 2 meters with their tail reaching between 1 and 1.4 meters. They can stand at about two-thirds of a meter tall at the shoulder, making it the second tallest African cat.
The easiest way to separate a male and female leopard is the difference in their size. Males are much bigger and have a stockier build with a bigger head and paws.
The males reach an average weight of 60 kgs, whereas the female averages 40kgs.
This African cat has many adaptations that help them with their hunting skills.
Firstly, their claws are crooked to enable them to hold on to prey and help them climb trees efficiently. They can be retracted when they are not needed.
The muscles in their legs are strong allowing them to run at speeds up to 58 km per hour. They also help these cats to leap 3 meters into the air to catch birds as well as jump 6 meters in order to cross a divide. This is where its long tail helps them maintain balance and steer their jump.
Their eyes have specially adapted retinas. As a result, their vision is seven times better than humans in the dark.
The leopard’s sense of smell and hearing are highly developed and very sensitive. This is perfect for hunting at any time of day or night.
Leopards live to a good age of up to 15 years with their only predators being lions and hyenas.
Leopard are generally solitary animals and will live most of their lives alone.
You will very rarely hear a leopard. Unlike the lion, they do not call or advertise their presence. Even though they have the ability to roar, they will communicate mainly by growling, spitting and purring with each other. Occasionally they will make a raspy cough.
Generally, leopards are at their most active between the hours of sunset and sunrise. This is when they kill most of their prey.
Stealthy predators, when they are hunting they like to stalk or ambush from a short distance with a short explosive run. They kill with a fatal bite to the neck suffocating their prey with their jaws clamped down on the windpipe.
Their prey is very varied. Fish, reptiles, baboons, monkeys, genets and even porcupines are included on their menu. They are opportunistic hunters. Leopards will take on anything that comes within their range. They generally hunt antelope, plains game, warthog, baboons, and monkeys. Impala are very common kills and plentiful too.
They are known for being shrewd predators, incredibly strong and agile. The leopard is well known for dragging a kill heavier than its own body weight into trees. This can then be eaten at their leisure without scavengers harassing them for an easy meal.
Leopards spend most of their time on the ground hiding out in rocky koppies or in dense brush. These cool escapes protect them from the heat of the day.
These cats are strong swimmers and feel at home in the water. They are not averse to catching fish or even crabs as a meal.
Even when water is in short supply during the dry season they can survive for long periods. They sustain themselves from the moisture gained from their prey.
Territories are very varied. They can range from 10 square kilometers to several hundred square kilometers. To mark their range they scratch trees and urinate.
They are solitary animals going out of their way to avoid one another. A leopard’s home range will overlap with its neighbors with the male having a larger area he controls. He will defend his territory against other males but share with females.
Leopards live in a wide variety of habitats throughout Sub-Saharan Africa.
These include woodlands, grassland savannas, scrubland, semi-arid, deserts to forest and mountain habitats. However – they are most prevalent in the African savanna grasslands.
Preferring habitats that provide rainfall above 50 mm annually, they can still be found in less arid areas along river courses.
They like rocky outcrops and thick thicket areas. Here they hide-out during the heat of the day and get a vantage point of the area.
Being this adaptable makes them a highly successful cat species. Hence there is an estimated population of over 700 000 African leopard in Africa.
A leopard hunt averages 14 days due to their nature and habits.
Leopard hunting requires patience and perseverance. Leopards are cunning and very dangerous, especially when wounded. With their exceptional eyesight, hearing, and camouflage you must give this member of the Big Five the utmost respect. Especially if you are tracking a wounded cat into the bush. He will come at you from nowhere.
So getting a good shot first time is essential.
Here is an interesting fact when tracking leopard. They are very careful stalkers placing their paws very carefully so as to make no noise to alert their prey. The interesting part is that they put their hind paws in the exact place they placed their front paws. This fact makes them look like a two-footed animal.
With leopard out mostly in the late afternoon and night hours, hunting these elusive animals takes cunning and patience.
Look for leopard where they frequently walk. These areas can be riverbeds, roads, and around rocky outcrops. They will hide out under thickets or rocky outcrops during the day. This fact provides good ambushing points when hunting.
In most African countries a leopard must be taken during daylight hours.
The trophy size is determined by skull size. Leopards are CITES I animals allowing them to be imported into the United States. Hunting quotas are very strict. There are a limited number of tags available annually for hunting leopard.
All in all – leopard hunting in Zimbabwe will be fascinating, exhilarating and well worth all your hard work.
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