Apologies for being fashionably late again! Was busy passing through four states yesterday (the United States kind, not states of matter or being).
The Leopard (Panthera pardus) is the smallest member of the "big cat" Panthera group (the others being the jaguar, lion and tiger). The Leopard can weigh up to 130 pounds, and measure 65 inches with a 43-inch tail. The Leopard occupies a much smaller range than it had before the rapid loss of habitat and intensive hunting, which reduced its presence from Siberia to South Africa to just a fraction of that. They are now primarily found in sub-Saharan Africa, with scattered populations in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, China, Indochina and Indonesia. Because its range and numbers are STILL shrinking, it is considered Near Threatened by the IUCN. The Leopard is similar in appearance to the jaguar, but is smaller in size and its rosettes (spots) are more densely packed and usually don't have an interior solid spot the way jaguars do. The Leopard is strong and fast - it can run up to speeds of 36 miles and hour and haul its kills into the tree-tops to protect it from scavengers or other predators. The Leopard's diet is extremely varied, as it will hunt down virtually any animal it can catch and consume, from rodents to antelope. Leopards are masters of stealth, able to stalk their prey and employ ambush-hunting techniques. Despite their status as smallest of the "big cats", they have incredible jaw strength, which aids them in carrying their kills into the treetops.