This solitary feline is the strongest climber of the large cats, and like other cats, spends about two thirds of it’s life sprawled out in relaxed slumber. Although hard to track, the Lower Zambezi is a fantastic location for the chance spotting of the secretive leopard.
The spotted coat of the leopard provides almost perfect camouflage, and their adaptability to their environment has helped them survive the loss of habitat to increasing human settlement. They prefer dense bush in rocky surrounds, as well as riverine forests. Leopards continually move about their home ranges, seldom staying in an area for more than two or three days at a time. By marking and calling, they usually know each others whereabouts.
This nocturnal cat is capable of killing prey larger than itself. Hunting usually occurs at night, and they spend much of the day hiding in thickets or in a tree, resting. They mainly prey on small antelope, rodents, baboons, monkeys and birds, and are highly efficient hunters. They haul their prey into trees in order to enjoy their meal in peace, safe from lurking vultures, lions and hyaenas. The leopard can run up to 58km/h and can leap 6m horizontally and 3m vertically. They are also excellent swimmers.
These cats have a reputation as being dangerous killers, but research does not support the claim at all. In some areas farmers try to kill them, whilst in others leopards are considered symbols of wisdom.