About Leopards

About Leopards

Africa’s Most Sought-After Safari Sighting – The Leopard

Secretive, stealthy, and solitary

Leopards are among Africa’s most appealing animals, with liquid amber eyes and striking black and fawn rosette-patterned coats. A white marking on the underside of an idly flicking black-tipped tail sometimes gives away their hiding place as they lounge in the boughs of a leafy tree.

The leopard’s secretive ways generally keep them out of trouble, although poachers will target them for their magnificent skins. Traditionally, these skins played a significant role in the cultural garb of local people, but many of them have since settled for imitation pelts to help protect the leopard from further persecution.

Despite this, leopard numbers are decreasing, and they’re listed as ‘vulnerable’ according to the IUCN Red List.

The biggest threats to the leopard population are habitat loss, competition for prey species, and human-animal conflict as they will prey on livestock given the opportunity.

Thanks to Namibia’s long-standing conservation culture, there are still about 11 700 leopards in this southern African country.

The Hunter and the Hunted

Leopards are shy, nocturnal animals with a heavy-set, agile body, and a long tail to help them balance. Female leopards weigh between 20 and 60kgs, while males can weigh up to 74kgs. Leopards’ average height is 70cm at the shoulder.

Strong jaws, sharp claws, and fearsome teeth, coupled with acute senses and innate stealth make them fearsome and effective hunters.

Excellent night vision makes them ideally adapted for night-time hunting. During the day, they rest up under cover on the ground, or in the branches of a sturdy tree.

Leopards are most at home in the trees alongside a river, where they will wait for prey to approach before leaping on it from above. They’re superb climbers and will usually drag their kill into a nearby tree to protect it from other predators.

Like most big cats, leopards have home ranges, which they must defend from other leopards. This often results in bloody battles to the death. These territories can be as large as 2 000 km2.

They mark their domain with anal sac secretions and urine spray deposited on convenient vegetation or on the ground. Male leopards often rub their cheeks against vegetation which releases a scent from the cheek glands. They also claw trees, releasing a scent marking secretion from glands between their paws.

Interactions between leopards are rare and these scents are often the most common means of communication between them. They have limited vocalizations which include sawing (a rasping, coughing sound), purring, grunting, growling, and chuffing. Juveniles mew like kittens.

Leopards typically prey on medium-sized antelope like impalas, baboons, warthogs, rodents, hared, birds, and reptiles.

Lions are a dangerous foe of the leopard and don’t miss an opportunity to steal prey from the smaller, solitary cat. Hyenas and baboons are known to attack leopards at times, too, and they won’t hesitate to kill young cubs.

Leopard Lifestyles

Leopards live and hunt alone. In most cases, any interaction between them either results in mating or conflict.

Once the male has mated with a willing female, it leaves her to give birth and raise her cubs alone. Gestation is typically 3 months, and the cubs are born completely helpless, depending on their mother for milk until they’re weaned at 3 months old.

The female moves the cubs to a new hidden location every day to avoid detection by other predators. They stay with their mother, learning to hunt and scavenge, until two years old when they venture out to find a territory of their own.

Interactions between females and their grown offspring are usually cordial.

The Role of the Leopard in the Ecosystem

Leopards are among the top predators in their natural environment. They play a vital role in controlling herbivores and small animal populations. Without predators, these animals would reproduce too rapidly, placing a high burden on the available food sources in nature.

They’re considered an ‘umbrella species’ due to their large habitat variety. This means that leopard conservation impacts many species along the food chain.

Where to See Leopards in Namibia

Leopards are widely distributed across Africa south of the Tropic of Cancer. They’ve adapted to survive in a variety of habitats including savannahs, woodlands, grassland mountains, coastal environments, deserts, swamps, and tropical rainforests.

You’re most likely to see a leopard while on an early morning or night drive among the protected areas of game reserves and national parks.

These are some of the best places to see leopards during your travels around Namibia:

Etosha National Park

Etosha National Park’s floodlit waterholes are one of the best places to see leopards out on the prowl at night. During the daytime, a visit to the Stark’s Pan, Moringa, Rietfontein, Nuamses, Goas, or Kalkheuwel areas might reveal a glimpse of a leopard resting in a nearby tree.

Okonjima Nature Reserve and the AfriCat Foundation

Okonjima Nature Reserve is 50km from Otjiwarongo, secluded among the Omboroko Mountains of Namibia. It offers a range of luxury accommodations including private campsites and plush lodges.

The reserve welcomes both overnight and day visitors to join in guided game drives in search of leopards and other rare species like brown hyena.

The AfriCat Carnivore Care Centre is a predator rehabilitation center, located within the reserve, which showcases various Namibian species like wild dogs, cheetahs, and hyenas.

Zambezi Region (Caprivi Strip)

The lush riverine forests in this part of Namibia are an ideal habitat for leopards and other wildlife species. You’ll find many private safari lodges and game reserves in this area where you may catch glimpses of leopards during your game drives.

Start Your Search for Wild Leopards in Namibia

Are you excited to explore Namibia’s most enchanting wild spaces? We can help you discover the best activities and attractions on offer in this amazing country.

If you’d like to find out more about the incredible wildlife of Namibia and where to find these unique creatures, browse our travel blog and Travel guide to start planning your Namibian safari travels.

Please Note: The details shared herein were correct at the time of publishing. However, with time some of this information may change. We recommend confirming information with suppliers prior to making final travel arrangements. If you do happen to find an issue with any information we’ve shared here, please feel free to contact us so that we can make the relevant changes.


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