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10 fun facts about the Big Five's most elusive cats

One - Leopards and trees go together like honey and bees

Often, when on safari, your ranger will be scanning the treetops for those recognizable black spots (also known as rosettes) and a long curling tail. This is where our feline friend will rest, hunt (by scanning the horizon for prey) or eat. They are the best climbers out of all of the cat species and use this skill to their advantage.

Two - Oh so mighty

Using immeasurable strength, leopards can hoist their prey into the top branches of a tree where it is safe from other predators. As their diets are fairly adaptable, this could be anything from a young impala to a larger kill that amounts to double their weight. Now that's power!

Three - A solitary life

The few times you will see more than one leopard together are when they are mating; when a female leopard is raising her cubs; and if territories have been intersected (males will overlap their territories with females). This solitary lifestyle is one of the reasons the leopard is known for being the elusive, shy animal of the bush.

Four - Speaking of cubs...

The pregnancy of a leopard lasts around three and a half months and the size of a litter can be anything from two to four cubs. The mother will raise her cubs up until the age of around two years with the survival rate being about fifty percent per litter. Those that make it can live up to fifteen years in the wild.

Five - On the move

Leopards are pretty good at adapting to different environments - whether it is along the coast, mountainous regions or deep in the bushveld. They will have a home range, which will differ in size according to their gender (males have larger territories than females) and they will roam these areas, never staying in one place for too long.

Six - What's cookin' goodlookin'?

A leopard's diet is fairly flexible and they are known to eat a variety of small to medium sized prey. This can include monkeys, warthogs, small antelope, cheetah cubs and even rodents. Comfortable in water, they have also been seen to catch fish and when they hunt larger prey you can find them in a tree feasting on a carcass for a number of days.

Seven - Conversations

Leopards communicate through scent, body language and behavior such as the marking of trees. They have scent glands on their cheeks and they can be seen rubbing their faces on branches or pathways to send out a clear message of whose territory it is - males will also spray their urine for this purpose.

As with most animals, they use their tails as a means of non verbal communication and this will offer a good indication of what mood they are in. Their vocal sounds range from growling or hissing to a recognizable hoarse, rasping 'roar', all which are used for communication between their own and other species.

Eight - Sight at night

With eyesight that is seven times that of a human, it is no wonder leopards are primarily nocturnal animals! This is not to say you won't spot them moving around in the day as they are opportunistic by nature, but generally night time is one of the best times to be on the look out for a leopard in action.

Nine - Knowing the difference

The size difference between males and female leopards can range from anything between 10 and 30kg's (size is dependent on regions of South Africa), and although the difference is significant sometimes it can be hard to tell if you're look at a young male or an adult female.

The head and neck of a male is also a lot bigger than the female, but again this may be tricky to decipher as it is not often you are able to make the comparison between the two genders.

Ten - Conservation

Unfortunately, the leopard's greatest threat is the human being. They are currently listed as vulnerable on the global IUCN Red list and this is because of factors like habitat loss, trophy hunting and conflict with people. Organizations like the African Wildlife Foundation have implemented an integrated approach to conservation by working with communities who live in close proximity to this species.

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