Leopards unite to procreate

By Titus Kakembo

Male and female leopards spend only a brief time together while they are mating and then go their separate ways.

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They are the most beautiful cats in Africa but also shy and even keep away from each other except when procreating.

I once saw one from a distance at  Queen Elizabeth National Park. The other one was in Kidepo Valley National Park lurking in dense bush when it  was emerging to hunt at night.

On National Geographic I discovered how graceful and elongated it does balance on a set of relatively short legs with a long tail.

"When it comes to size, it is second to the lion among big cats, with an average body mass of between 60kg-70kg," said Uganda Wildlife Education Center (UWEC) animal keeper Steven Busulwa. "They stand at about two-thirds of a metre tall at the shoulder."

Adding that, leopards in the wild may live up to 15 years and are silent creatures, which emit a cough-like call, once in a while.

In action, leopard's hunt in ambush style after stalking its prey.

"I have seen it get as close as possible to its target," he recounts."That day it made an explosive charge at 60km/h. It pounced on an antelope with a bite to the neck."

Busulwa says  leopards do not have the ability to chase their target for long distances and have been seen giving up after a short distance.

"I have seen leopards drag animals heavier than them for long distances," narrates Busulwa. "This is chopped into a fork of a tree top several metres off the ground."

This storage of the carcass against access by scavengers like hyenas enables it a few days of undisturbed feeding. Contrary to popular belief, leopards dine on a variety of foods.

"On their menu are: wildebeests, fish, antelopes and baboons," says Busulwa. "I have seen them stalk baboons sleeping in the trees at night, and carry off one of the troop."

Each animal consumes about 400kg of meat in a year which implies a single kilogram can serve it per day. Their best portion of the carcass are the thighs and the chest.

The animals scratch trees and use urine to mark their turf. A male will defend his territory against other males, but will share territory with females.

Male and female leopards spend only a brief time together while they are mating and then go their separate ways.

The female will then raise the cubs on her own. Leopards can survive for long periods without drinking, satisfying all their moisture needs from their prey.