Thanks to their phenomenal adaptability, leopards have the largest range of any cat in the world.However, habitat loss and hunting, in particular, are threatening the continent’s population. The IUCN Red List now classifies the animals as vulnerable. Find out more below.
African Leopard – Profile
- Scientific name: Panthera pardus pardus
- Size: Male approx. 70-80 cm shoulder height – Female: approx. 60-70 cm shoulder height
- Weight: Males: approx. 60-90 kg – Females: approx. 30-60 kg
- Food: Small to medium-sized mammals, birds, reptiles and fish (e.g. mice, rabbits, impala, bushbuck)
- Number of offspring: 2-3 young per litter
- Life expectancy: 11-15 years, maximum 20 years
- IUCN Red List Status: Vulnerable
- Range: In most countries of Africa (but predominantly in eastern and southern Africa)
- Habitat: Very adaptable, ranging from diverse forests and savannahs to desert areas
- Population size: Approx. 700,000 individuals
- Main threats: Habitat loss, hunting of prey, human-wildlife conflict, trophy hunting and poaching
Leopards - Endangerment status, threats and protection
Leopards are listed as vulnerable by the IUCN International commercial trade is prohibited by the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). However, the protection status of the animals differs in the individual countries of distribution. While leopards are protected in most countries, others still allow trophy hunting.
Trophy hunting and illegal poaching
Leopards, like the other four members of the Big Five, are among the most sought-after victims of trophy hunting. This not only costs the lives of many animals, but also often adversely affects the structures within a territory.
Poaching for the illegal trade of leopard body parts such as skins, bones, and canines is also a major threat. While leopard bones have become a popular ingredient in traditional Asian medicine, leopard skins and canines are often used as part of traditional ceremonies in Africa. Leopard skins and hides are also sought-after luxury goods in Asia and played a major role in the Western fashion world until a few decades ago.
Shrinking habitats are another factor threatening leopards. Due to the global increase in human populations, more and more natural habitats are being converted into agricultural or settlement areas. Since the 1990s, large parts of the African leopard’s range have been lost, and the trend is increasing.
Hunting of prey animals
In many areas, leopard prey is also an important food source for humans. In many places, the sharp increase in human population and related wildlife habitat encroachment is leading to overhunting of smaller and medium-sized vertebrates, so that leopards are increasingly squeezed for food.
The so-called human-wildlife conflict is closely interwoven with all this. When leopards enter (growing) human settlements, they often kill domestic animals and livestock. This behaviour is in perfect harmony with their natural role as predators and carnivores. However, an unfortunate consequence is that leopards are regularly killed by people in affected communities who want to protect themselves or their livestock.
In order to ensure an overview of population developments in wildlife areas and to identify the need for action in good time, C4C supports projects to survey leopard populations.
Emmett, Meghan; Pattrick, Sean (2013): Game Ranger in Your Backpack. All-in-one interpretive guide to the Lowveld. Pretoria: Briza. pp. 18-21