In this lesson, you’ll learn interesting facts about Indian leopards. Read on to find out where they live, what they eat, why they’re endangered, and how people are trying to help them.
Imagine that you’re in India and it’s the middle of the night. All of a sudden, a huge Indian leopard jumps out of the forest, snatches a person and drags them away. Sounds like a movie, but it happens often! Hundreds of people are killed each year by Indian leopards. Let’s learn more about this big, man-eating cat.
Spots Are Like Fingerprints
The Indian leopard is one of five big cats that make their home in India, which is a country in Asia. The others are the Asiatic lion, Bengal tiger, snow leopard and clouded leopard.
Like all leopards, the Indian leopard is covered with dark spots, which are called rosettes because they look like flowers. Believe it or not, these rosettes are like fingerprints; each Indian leopard has a unique pattern of rosettes. The patterns are so unique that scientists can use them to identify individual leopards. The rosettes on the Indian leopard are larger than those on other leopards.
The fur of Indian leopards varies from yellowish-brown to reddish-brown, and even grayish-brown, depending on where they live. They have rather small ears and yellowish-gray eyes. Male Indian leopards are larger than females, often a little over four feet in length. They have very long tails, which can be up to three feet long! The males weigh between 110 and 170 pounds.
Indian Leopard Habits
Indian leopards are solitary predators; this means that each leopard hunts for its food by itself. They usually stay hidden at night, hiding in the branches of large trees. They’re good climbers and use trees for shelter. Since there are often other large cats living nearby, an Indian leopard will drag its prey up into a tree to eat it. And because they also rely on trees for shelter, they’re often found in forest habitats.
While the Indian leopard is very strong, it’s not as fast as some other big cats. They have very strong and powerful jaws to help them catch and eat their prey. They usually feed on deer, wild pigs, cattle, rabbits, dogs, and porcupines, but will eat other animals that are easy to catch.
Indian Leopard Population
Until recently, we weren’t sure how many Indian leopards were living. They’re difficult to find and count because they often stay hidden. A few years ago, the Indian government estimated that there are over 12,000 Indian leopards.
Unfortunately, there are fewer Indian leopards every year, mostly because they’re being killed by poachers, people who are hunting them illegally. Poachers will hunt animals that are protected, even though it’s against the law to kill them. Indian leopards are mostly hunted for their skins. Because of all the poaching, Indian leopards are considered to be endangered animals and the government is trying to protect them.
It’s difficult to protect Indian leopards because they’re known to kill people and animals, so many people will kill them whenever they can. To help save the Indian leopards, people have tried catching them and then relocating them to areas away from people. This sounds like a good idea, but scientists have found that it’s not working very well. The Indian leopards are very smart and are able to make their way back home! One leopard that was relocated managed to get back home even though it had to walk almost 75 miles, crossing highways and a big creek in order to get back to its original home.
Indian leopards are a kind of large, very powerful cat that lives in India. They are solitary predators, hunting their prey by themselves and often dragging it up into a tree to eat. The number of Indian leopards is decreasing because they’re being killed by poachers who want their skins.