Common leopard | WWF India

Common leopard

Key Facts

  • Common Name

    Indian leopard or common leopard

  • Scientific Name

    Panthera pardus

  • Population

    No official countrywide population estimate is available. However, within the 17 tiger bearing states of India, the leopard occupies an area of around 1,74,066 km2, nearly double the area occupied by the tiger

  • Height

    45-80 cms

  • Length

    Head-body length: 100-190 cm, Tail length: 70-95 cm

  • Weight

    Male: 30-70 kg, Female: 28-60 kg

  • Status

    Listed in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and included in Appendix I of CITES. Listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List

 
	© David Lawson/WWF
Common leopard
© David Lawson/WWF

Characteristics

Nine subspecies of the leopard have been recognized, and they are distributed across Africa and Asia. Each of them vary to some degree in appearance and biology as one moves across this wide geographical range, but their exceptionally beautiful black-spotted coat, supreme stealth, and elusive nature remains common. The leopard is the smallest of the big cats, and known for its ability to adapt in a variety of habitats. Melanism is a common occurrence in leopards, wherein the entire skinof the animal is black in colour, including its spots. A melanistic leopard is often called black panther or jaguar, and mistakenly thought to be a different species.

A nocturnal animal, the leopard hunts by night. It feeds on smaller species of herbivores found in its range, such as the chital, hog deer and wild boar. It is notorious for picking up feral dogs around forest areas. An extremely agile creature, it spends most of its resting time on top of trees, using land only to move locations, but rarely to rest or nap. It is known to carry its prey up on trees. This is especially common in leopards that share their habitat with other large cats such as the tiger inIndia.

Leopards usually mate throughout the year, producing a litter of two to three cubs after a gestation period of 90 to 105 days. The female uses a secluded and well-hidden spot in the forest to deliver, and the cubs remain hidden in the spot for up to six to eight weeks, until they are ready to follow the mother around. They stay with the mother for another two years, when they learn to hunt by following and watching the mother.

Conservation Issues

The biggest threats facing the common leopard in India are increasing conflict with humans, poaching for illegal trade in body parts and loss of habitat. Leopards also die due to accidents on roads passing through and around protected areas.

WWF-India’s Initiatives

WWF-India is conducting studies on the status of the leopard within Protected Areas, and its usage of wildlife corridors. WWF’s provides supports to strengthen anti-poaching efforts in the protected areas so that leopard poaching is reduced. WWF-India also works with the state forest departments and local communities to manage conflict issues as well as raise awareness among villagers about the importance of conserving the leopard.
 
	© Martin Harvey/WWF
Common leopard
© Martin Harvey/WWF

Habitat and distribution

In India, the leopard is found in all forest types, from tropical rainforests to temperate deciduous and alpine coniferous forests. It is also found in dry scrubs and grasslands, the only exception being desert and the mangroves of Sundarbans. It shares its territory with the tiger in 17 states. Its range stretches from the Indus river in the west, the Himalayas in the north, and all the way to the lower course of the Brahmaputra in the east.
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