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The leopard (Panthera pardus) is one of the five “big cats” in the genus Panthera. It is a member of the family Felidae with a wide range in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia. Fossil records found in Italy suggest that in the Pleistocene it ranged as far as Europe and Japan.
Compared to other members of Felidae, the leopard has relatively short legs and a long body with a large skull. It is similar in appearance to the jaguar, but is smaller and more lightly built. Its fur is marked with rosettes similar to those of the jaguar, but the leopard’s rosettes are smaller and more densely packed, and do not usually have central spots as the jaguar’s do. Both leopards and jaguars that are melanistic are known as black panthers.
The leopard’s success in the wild is due to its well camouflaged fur; its opportunistic hunting behaviour, broad diet, and strength to move heavy carcasses into trees; its ability to adapt to various habitats ranging from rainforest to steppe and including arid and montane areas; and to run at speeds up to 58 kilometres per hour (36 mph).
It is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List because leopard populations are declining in large parts of their range. They are threatened by habitat loss and pest control. Their habitats are fragmented and they are illegally hunted so that their pelts may be sold in wildlife trade for medicinal practices and decoration. They have been extirpated in Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuwait, Syria, Libya, Tunisia and most likely Morocco.
Indian leopard, Clouded leopard, African leopard, Amur leopard, Snow leopard, Persian leopard,
The African wild dog, African hunting dog, or African painted dog (Lycaon pictus) is a canid native to Sub-Saharan Africa. It is the largest of its family in Africa, and the only extant member of the genus Lycaon, which is distinguished from Canis by its fewer toes and dentition, which is highly specialised for a hypercarnivorous diet. It is classed as endangered by the IUCN, as it has disappeared from much of its original range. The current population has been estimated at roughly 39 subpopulations containing 6,600 adults, only 1,400 of which are fully grown. The decline of these populations is ongoing, due to habitat fragmentation, human persecution, and disease outbreaks.
The African wild dog is a highly social animal, living in packs with separate dominance hierarchies for males and females. Uniquely among social carnivores, it is the females rather than the males that scatter from the natal pack once sexually mature, and the young are allowed to feed first on carcasses. The species is a specialised diurnal hunter of antelopes, which it catches by chasing them to exhaustion. Like other canids, it regurgitates food for its young, but this action is also extended to adults, to the point of being the bedrock of African wild dog social life. It has few natural predators, though lions are a major source of mortality, and spotted hyenas are frequent kleptoparasites.
Although not as prominent in African folklore or culture as other African carnivores, it has been respected in several hunter-gatherer societies, particularly those of the predynastic Egyptians and the San people.