Indian Leopard

The Indian leopard (Panthera pardus fusca) is a well-known leopard subspecies native to the Indian subcontinent.

The Indian leopard is listed on the IUCN Red List as Vulnerable because its population has declined following fragmentation and habitat loss, and poaching for the illegal trade of body parts and skins.

The Indian leopard is regarded as one of the big cats occurring on the Indian subcontinent, apart from the Bengal tiger, Asiatic lion, clouded leopard, and snow leopard.

Table of Contents

Scientific classification

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderCarnivora
SuborderFeliformia
FamilyFelidae
SubfamilyPantherinae
GenusPanthera
SpeciesP. pardus
SubspeciesP. p. fusca

Characteristics

The Indian leopard has a long well-formed tail and strong legs, short ears and small yellowish grey eyes, broad muzzle, and light grey ocular bulbs. Its coat is rosetted and spotted on a pale yellow to golden or yellowish-brown background.

The spots fade away towards the insides and lower parts of the legs and white underbelly. Rosettes are most prominent on the flanks, back, and hindquarter. Each individual has a unique pattern of rosettes.

The white-tipped tail is 24 to 39 in (60 to 100 cm) long, displays rosettes and is white underneath. Nonetheless, the tail forms incomplete bands toward the end. Other subspecies in Asia tends to display larger rosettes.

Fur colour tends to be more gray in colder climates, more cream and pale in arid habitat, and of a darker golden hue in rainforest habitat.

Compared to the distinct and smaller rosettes of the leopard, thinner tail and longer legs, the clouded leopard is said to be identified by its diffuse clouds of spots.

Size

Male Indian leopards  can grow to up to  4 ft 2 in (127 cm) – 4 ft 8 in (142 cm) in body size, along with a 2 ft 6 in (76 cm) – 3 ft (91 cm) long tail and weigh between 110 to 170 lb (50 to 77 kg).

Females are known to be smaller, growing to between 3 ft 5 in (104 cm) to 3 ft 10 in (117 cm) in body size and a 2 ft 6 in (76 cm) – 2 ft 10.5 in (87.6 cm) long tail, and weigh between 64 and 75 lb (29 and 34 kg). Indian leopards are sexually dimorphic, where males are larger and heavier than females.

Behaviour and ecology

The leopard is solitary, elusive, and largely nocturnal. It is known for its ability in swimming, although it is not as proficient as the tiger. It also climbs trees, and has been observed to drag its kills up trees and hang them.

It is very agile, and is known to run at over 36 mph (58 kilometres per hour), leap over 20 ft (6 m) horizontally, and jump up to 9.8 ft (3 m) vertically. It produces a number of vocalizations, including roars, grunts, meows, growls, and purrs.

In Nepal’s Bardia National Park, the home ranges of male leopards comprised about 19 sq mi (48 km2) and of females about 6.6 sq mi (17 km2); female home ranges decreased to 1.9 – 2.7 sq mi (5 – 7 km2) when they have cubs. While in Gir National Park, the home range of a male radio-collared leopard was at 10.87 sq mi (28.15 km2).

The leopard is an adaptable, opportunistic hunter, and has a broad diet. It is able to take large kills up a tree due to its powerful jaw muscles and massive skull.

In Sariska Tiger Reserve, the diet of an Indian leopard consists of sambar deer, axis deer, wild boar, nilgai, Indian hare, common langur, and peafowl.

Leopard population by state (2015)

StateLeopard population
Andhra Pradesh343
Bihar32
Chhattisgarh846
Goa71
Jharkhand29
Karnataka1,129
Kerala472
Madhya Pradesh1817
Maharashtra905
Odisha345
Tamil Nadu815
Uttar Pradesh194
Uttarakhand703

Reproduction

The Indian leopard mates all year round, although breeding varies on the region. The oestrous cycle last for about 46 days and the female usually is in heat for 6 to 7 days.

Gestation lasts for 90 – 105 days. Indian leopard cubs are usually born in a litter of 2 to 4 cubs. Mortality of cubs is estimated at 41 to 50% during the first year.

Females give birth in crevice among boulders, caves, den made out of thicket, and hollow tree. Indian leopards cubs are born with their eyes shut, which open 4 – 9 days after birth. The fur of the young Indian leopard tends to be thicker and longer than that of adults.

The young Indian leopard begins to follow the mother on hunts around three months of age. The Indian leopard becomes independent and can probably fend for themselves at one year of age, but remains with the mother for 18 to 24 months.

The lifespan of an Indian leopard in the wild is between 12 and 17 years, while in captivity, it is said to live up to 21 – 23 years.

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