Indian Leopard climbing a tree.
Panthera Pardus Fusca is the scientific name for the subspecies known as the Indian Leopard. These beautiful cats are found throughout the subcontinent of India as well as Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Bhutan. They are sometimes known as Tendua or Baghera. The Indian Leopard is found in most of the forests, including coniferous, dry deciduous, temperate and tropical rain forests.
Leopards are characterised by their ‘spots’; dark brown or black markings on their coats, which range from being a golden sandy colour to a rich chestnut. Their bellies, throats and chests are white and the backs of their ears are black. The light belly is marked with large black or brown markings, which are bigger and less uniform than the spots on the rest of the body. The markings of the animal depend on its habitat. That is, if the leopard lives in a densely vegetated, darker forest, it is likely to be darker in colour, with a more extensive covering of black spots. This camouflage is something for which leopards have becoming famous (or notorious, depending on the subject). Even when in the immediate vicinity, scientists, rangers and onlookers have been unable to see the animal, despite knowing that it was definitely there. Their strength, grace, agility, stealth and ability to swim and climb put these carnivores in the prime position to survive even the most challenging of natural environments. Indian Leopards, like their African counterparts, are not pack animals. They prefer to live and hunt on their own. Still, small groups have been seen together, but this is unlikely to be a permanent arrangement. They are generally, but not strictly, nocturnal. Daytimes are spent lazing in trees or warming themselves in the heat of the Indian sun.
The Indian Leopard is not as fussy about its diet as many of the other big cats. In addition to antelopes, wild hogs and so on, they will also eat birds, baboons and jackals, as well as domestic pets, fish and stock animals. They have even been known to eat leftovers from other hunters’ kills, a habit usually reserved only for scavengers. The leopard usually attacks from behind, clamping their strong jaws down on the neck and throat of the unfortunate prey. In some cases, reports of leopards attacking humans have been made, but this is a rare occurrence.
Indian Leopards are estimated to live up to about nine years of age, although it is difficult to track them in the wild. When kept in captivity, this lifespan increases dramatically to well over 20 years. This increase is due to an abundance of food and water, a lack of threat from hunters or locals and prompt medical care. Unfortunately, the stunning Indian Leopard has long been hunted for its pelt and fur. Its survival is also threatened by pollution (particularly that of the water) as well as a major decrease in its natural habitat due to human development and growth. Today, it is classified as being an endangered species. For these reasons, several initiatives have been undertaken in India and elsewhere. These projects are designed to educate people about the importance of this animal and its role in maintaining the biodiversity of the subcontinent, minimising the negative impact that humans may have on these animals, decreasing the amount of interaction between humans and leopards and abating the poaching of these creatures. Visitors wanting to witness the elegant poise and power of the Indian Leopard can see them roaming in the Ranthambore National Park and the Sariska Tiger Reserve.