Leopard – Kenya’s Smallest Cat in the Big Five
A Leopard is 1.5 – 2.6 feet tall and 3 – 6 feet long to the tail. Leopards have a lifespan of about 20 years with males weighing 80 – 200 pounds and females slightly smaller in size and weight. This is the smallest of the big cats. They have brown skin with black spots. They are found in forested areas and can mostly be seen resting on tree branches or on ant hills and rocks. Leopards frequently live individually though they sometimes faction when hunting. They are well known to hurdle and go for a dip in deep waters too when hunting for prey.
Leopards are seen anywhere in the wild, in Kenya, and a tour to the National parks and reserves to spot one though they are shy and often hide during the day. The Maasai Mara National Reserve and the Samburu National Reserve are two parks predominantly known for their leopards.
The figures of African leopards also increase dramatically during the annual wildebeest migration between July and September. With more than a million wildebeest on the move, there are also enormous numbers of leopards, lions and cheetahs in chase.
The leopards have powerful limbs useful for climbing trees, strong jaws and shoulders. This makes them good hunters where they can attack their prey with the strong claws and drag their kill to the top of a tree where, no scavenger will find it and disturb their meal times. They are the only big cats who do that.
Their prey include antelopes, hares, rodents and domestic animals if they are living near human settlements. A leopard will usually drag its kill into a tree to defend it against bold scavengers like the hyena. This habit can make the leopard easier to spot and photograph, because it’s much more noticeable above the tall grasses. It is an ideal situation for a safari photograph.
The graceful leopard lives a solitary life except during the mating season. The beauty of the dark spots against the rich gold background belie the power these cats can muster if necessary, and it is indeed very hard to find them. Generally, on list of nocturnal animals, the best place to find them is in rocky hills, high in tree branches or in the thick woodland brushes.