Posts Tagged ‘leopard’


As you know, bat-eared foxes have very strong pair bonds, and the yapping mate that comes up at the end is really not having a good day.

If we can say that animals can feel extreme anguish and alienation, then we can clearly see it here.


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Tommy and Salati


“Tommy thinks he’s a human. Salati thinks she’s a dog.”

Golden retrievers don’t often think of themselves as dog. They think they are  dogs on an evolutionary journey into becoming human.

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This "strawberry" leopard appears to be unable to produce black pigment. Its nose and lips, as well as the skin around its eyes, appear to be reddish brown.

From io9.com:

You’re looking at the only known example of what conservationists are calling a strawberry colored African leopard. The big, pink-hued cat — which makes its home at South Africa’s Madikwe Game Reserve — is affected by erythrism, a poorly understood genetic condition that causes him to either overproduce red pigments or underproduce dark pigments in his coat.

“It’s really rare,” explained Luke Hunter, president of the wild cat-conservation group Panthera, whom Madikwe officials consulted with about the cat’s unusual coloration. “I don’t know of another credible example in leopards.”

According to National Geographic, erythrism is unusual in [wild] carnivores, which makes sense if you think about it — pinkish fur, after all, is probably not the most ideal form of camouflage for animals whose predatory techniques rely on stealth. But this particular leopard appears to be doing fine. “He’s obviously a successful animal,” said Hunter.

This is the first one that has been seen in recent times. However, Messybeast.com, a great resource for information about just about anything relating to unusual animals, has several images of taxidermies of what appear to be red leopards with a similar mutation, though much darker red in color. (There are some really interesting morphs on that page. The “cobweb panther” looks like a melanstic leopard with ich!)

There is some suggestion that these dark red leopards are faded black leopards, which is a possibility.  Spots can still be seen on black leopards, so exact chemical make up of the fur on the spots is different from the fur that comprises the background.

So it is possible that these red leopards are faded black ones. The fading could have happened due to age or the treatments used to preserve the skin.

I am not sure if anyone has examined these mahogany red leopards to see what they exactly are or were.  DNA could be extracted from at least some of these taxidermies. And then we could find out if they were black leopards or not.

This strawberry or red coloration is likely a recessive trait, and this should be of concern to leopard conservationists.

Several years ago, a brown and white giant panda was discovered in the Qinling Mountains.

It is generally pretty uncommon for very rare recessive traits to be expressed in the wild.

It’s just the nature of recessive traits. They can only be expressed when they are homozygous, and in nature, there is usually enough mixing of genes to keep recessives  diluted in a population.

When the brown panda was discovered, there became lots and lots of worries about inbreeding the Qinling Mountain pandads, which are the more stressed and fragmented of the two populations of giant pandas. Habitat fragmentation may mean that these pandas are becoming inbred, and a sign of that inbreeding is the sudden appearance of unusual recessive traits that are normally hidden.

We don’t typically think of common leopards as being endangered at all.

They are currently the most widespread of the big cats, and range from South Africa all the way to the Russian Far East. They are currently extirpated from much of North Africa and the Middle East, and there is an unusual isolated population of leopards on Java, which are somewhat smaller than normal common leopards.

However, genes do not flow across Asia and Africa as they once did.

As I noted earlier, leopards no longer exist in most of the Middle East and North Africa. Only isolated populations still exist.

And even within the core of leopard range in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, the habitat is greatly fragmented.

Leopards and lions no longer cast genes across vast areas. Very often, they are left in smaller preserves, where it is very easy for genetic bottlenecks to form. Dominant males, which rule prides in lions and overlapping territories of females in leopards, are not overthrown on a regular basis, making it more and more likely for a male to wind up mating with his daughters. New blood in the form of enterprising young males no longer enters the gene pool.

Madikwe is actually trying to solve some of these problems. There is a current move to create a corridor between it and Pilanesberg National Park.

This corridor would allow more of a gene flow to exist between populations of lions and leopards, and it would be a great asset to genetic sustainability of wildlife in this region.

This is more and more of a problem than one might expect.  Leopards are considered “near threatened” by IUCN, and lions are considered “vulnerable,” a much more serious distinction.  If lions and leopards cannot exchange genes over a larger area, the better for both species. Neither has experienced much inbreeding in their natural history, and thus, they have no had an opportunity to experience much purging or evolve any inbreeding tolerance.

Unusually colored wild animals often attract attention, but they can be indicative of more serious problems.

This cat seems to be doing fine.

Let’s just hope the population in which he lives will continue to thrive.


I should note that there are situations in which recessives can exist at much higher levels than one might normally expect.

One of these traits has a certain selective advantage, it will appear much more frequently than normal recessives.

Among these is melanism in leopards.

Melanistic leopards are most common in jungle or rainforest environments — particularly in Southeast Asia– where it may confer an advantage. A black cat can easily hide the shadows of the night, and because leopards are the consummate ambush predators, this might explain why there are so many black leopards– even though this is a recessive trait.

There is some suggestion now in the literature that melanism may also enhance the immune system.

But if recessives do not confer any advantage, they normally aren’t very common at all.

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It is amazing how similar their behavior and mannerisms are to domestic dogs, even though they are more distantly related to domestic dogs than we are to chimpanzees

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From Science Daily:

Recent camera trap images from the rocky terrain of Afghanistan’s central highlands have revealed a surprise: a Persian leopard, an apex predator long thought to have disappeared from the region, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society.

In a series of images that provides indisputable proof that the big cat persists in the country’s interior, a big adult leopard can be seen prowling around the camera trap’s field of view and investigating the camera itself, appearing to threaten it with canines exposed.

The camera traps captured dozens of images of other wildlife species, including lynx, wild cat, wolf, red fox, and stone marten, an impressive suite of predators still surviving in the Hindu Kush highlands, where Wildlife Conservation Society scientists and Afghan rangers have been conducting surveys in recent months.

“To see such a varied array of wildlife after we have endured so much conflict gives us hope for Afghanistan’s future,” said Mostapha Zaher, Director General of Afghanistan’s National Environmental Protection Agency. “Intact ecosystems represent a foundation for our country’s reconstruction and development. This is also our heritage, our natural resources, our fauna and flora. It is incumbent upon all of us to conserve and protect our environment and hand it over to the next generation of the citizens of Afghanistan.”

Camera traps give conservationists a valuable research tool in remote wildlife areas. In addition to providing a cross-section of an ecosystem in terms of the presence and absence of wildlife, the devices record data that, in sufficient quantities and placement, can be used to generate population estimates for individual species.

“The presence of leopards and lynxes in Afghanistan tells us that these big cats are finding enough prey to survive,” said Ghani Ghuriani, Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock. “This means that the rangelands can still support ibex, urial, and other species, which is a good sign for both wildlife and the people of this region who also depend on these grasslands for grazing.”

Peter Zahler, Deputy Director of WCS’s Asia Program, said: “We are thrilled by these images and the story of survival that they tell, but we were sobered by the fact that the cameras also took photographs of local people walking past with guns. Poaching is still a very real threat, and WCS is committed to helping the Afghan government and local communities protect these rare and beautiful animals.”

With the assistance of WCS and in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the government of Afghanistan has launched several initiatives to safeguard the country’s wild places and the wildlife they contain. This includes the creation of the country’s first and only national park, Band-e-Amir, in 2009, which is co-managed by local villagers and the government. The park provides jobs and revenue from the thousands of tourists who visit each week during the summer months. WCS worked with Afghanistan’s National Environment Protection Agency to create the country’s first-ever list of protected species, which prohibits the hunting of snow leopards, brown bears, and other wildlife. WCS provides educational workshops for soldiers at Bagram Air Base and other military bases across Afghanistan in an effort to limit illegal wildlife trade in the country that threatens leopards and other fur-bearing animals.

With USAID support, WCS has worked with the Afghan government, UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme), and others to craft new environmental laws and regulations and train government officials in their application. WCS works directly with more than 55 local communities in Afghanistan to better manage their natural resources. WCS staff train and deploy community rangers to monitor wildlife, and patrol the region to stop poaching and enforce the new environmental laws.

Common leopards do prey upon people and livestock, so conflicts between people and leopards need to worked out.

I don’t know if we just didn’t know that the Persian leopard subspecies of the common leopard were found in that part of the world or if they are actually returning to recolonize part of their former range.

Afghanistan is far from the easiest place for people to visit.

Afghanistan has been at war off and on for the past 30 years, and natural history and conservation haven’t been a major priority.


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Rare leopard eats dog


Amur leopards (Panthera pardus orientalis) are perhaps the most endangered carnivorans in existence today.

Only around 30 individuals still remain in a range that includes temperate forest and taiga in the Russian Far East,  northeastern China, and North Korea.  Their range partly overlaps that of the Amur (“Siberian”) tiger, which is also critically endangered.

As I’ve mentioned before, leopards like to eat dogs. The description on this video implies that preying upon dogs is a last resort for these leopards, but that is not really the case with leopards in other parts of Asia or in Africa. Dogs are actually a choice food item.

I don’t see why this rare subspecies of leopard would view dogs differently.

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Tibetan mastiff-type dog wearing a leopard-proof collar in the Himalayas.

From John Henry Baldwin’s The Large and Small Game of Bengal and the North-western Provinces of India (1876):

In general appearance (as already mentioned when speaking of the panther) the Indian leopard so much resembles the panther that they are often confounded, and to the present day classed by some as one and the same animal. [NB: Panthers are just the black color phase of leopard]. In the Himalayas the leopard is very common, and a perfect pest, continually carrying off dogs close to the outskirts of our hill stations. A dog that is in the habit of leaving his master and wandering from the foot path, when travelling in the hills, is almost certain, sooner or later, to be carried off. I have known of many fine sporting dogs taken when shooting pheasants and chikor [chukar].

Leopards are in the habit of watching foot-paths, from some hiding place above, whence they can view everything that passes. As soon as they perceive a dog or goat loitering behind or astray, they steal rapidly and silently down, and before poor ‘ doggy ‘ can join his master, or an unfortunate goat his comrades, he is seized by the throat and swept off the path without having time to utter a cry or offer the slightest resistance. A good stout dog is almost a match for a leopard, if brought face to face with him on open ground, but the cunning cruel cat creeps up and buries his fangs into the neck of his prey when he least expects him, and once in the fatal grip, a dog or any other creature hardly ever escapes. I remember, however, a plucky little terrier belonging to Colonel D—s of the 37th, making his escape from the clutches of a leopard, and returning to his master with a wound in his throat.

Two moderate-sized setters, the property of a gentleman at Mussoorie, turned on a leopard which attacked one of them, and speedily got the better of their assailant. They so worried the beast that it was unable to make its escape, and was easily dispatched.

It is not uncommon for the Thibet sheep dogs [Tibetan mastiffs]—large powerful animals (something like the Newfoundland breed with heavy ‘jowls ‘) and specially retained to guard flocks and herds—to be carried off by leopards; sometimes these dogs escape through wearing broad spiked iron collars. I remember seeing a collar deeply indented by the teeth of a leopard; the wearer had escaped with his life after being dragged some distance, but was grievously wounded.

Leopards are seldom seen in the daytime. I have only on three occasions seen them in the Himalayas, although I have travelled and wandered a great deal in our hill ranges; yet they are common enough.

The first thing that takes your eye in the early morning as you leave your tent, is the scratch on the turf from the foot of a leopard; if you examine the outskirts of your tent, you will likely enough find his ‘pug,’ where he has been sniffing under the canvas for ‘Dash’ or ‘Juno;’ and the sap yet running from a neighbouring tree shows that he has only an hour or two before been stretching his claws on the bark. I had a setter whose mother had been taken by a leopard, and who himself had had more than one narrow escape. This dog always slept on my bed, and more than once has awakened me on a dark night by his growling and trembling all over, and nestling closer to me, evidently from fear of some brute close at hand, probably a leopard. The first expedition I ever made to the hills I lost a pet dog named ‘Snip,’ carried off by a leopard; he was by no means a well-bred dog, rather the contrary; a thick-built brown terrier, rather bandy-legged, curly-tailed, with a pair of prick-up ears, and brown intelligent eyes. I bought him from a soldier in the barracks at Allahabad when a pup, for one rupee, and though not a valuable dog, he was a prime favourite of mine. For several months this poor dog was my only companion; we always shared our meals together, and sometimes both Snip and I had to put up with very ‘short commons,’ and retire to rest after only a scanty meal. One windy wet night, having collected sundry scraps, and filled a plate principally with rice for my dog, I placed the dish at the entrance of the tent, and soon Snip was in the full enjoyment of his meal. Having tied a lantern on to the tent pole and lit a cigar, I took up a book and lay down on my bed. In another minute I was startled by the sharp cry of my poor dog, and jumping up, I rushed out of the tent. I could see a dark object making off: catching up a lighted piece of wood from a fire burning outside, I hurled it at the animal; but although the sparks from the burning wood striking the ground almost between the creature’s feet showed it to be, as I expected, a leopard, the animal would not drop his prey. I ran after it shouting, but the brute disappeared in the darkness down the face of a steep decline. I went back, got my gun, a lantern, and two men with torches. We searched everywhere, called the dog by his name and whistled, but in vain, and in half an hour we returned wet through from a fruitless quest (pg. 68-70).

Leopards still like to eat dogs. Some leopards in India and Pakistan specialize in hunting village dogs. They are just far more numerous than natural prey.

But dogs probably should be considered natural prey for leopards, for domestic dogs have lived in India for thousands of years. And leopards have been hunting them.

Westerners who colonized leopard territory during the Age of Imperialism frequently found their improved domestic hunting dogs were often carried off by the spotted and black cats. Most native dogs had sense to pay attention to leopards, but domestic dogs coming from Western Europe had no predators and no reason to be cautious. Plus, many of them had grown up chasing cats, and leopard would have just appeared to have been a really big pussy cat that needed to be chased.

I wonder how many leopards came to specialize in hunting those naive cat-chasing European dogs. It could have been many leopards learned to take advantage of dogs in this manner. Of course, the hunters could have always turned tables on the cat by releasing packs of scent hounds to tree the leopards, which is precisely what happened.

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(Source for image)

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I don’t know if this is a leopard/lion hybrid or a cross between a lion and a leopard/jaguar hybrid (some of which are fertile.)

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This is why leopards like to eat dogs.

Many cat-hating European dogs that had been imported to Africa met their end when they took off after the big spotted kitty.

A dog is nothing more than bigger, fatter, and more gullible black-backed jackal to a leopard. The fact that this unusual jackal would have been advancing upon the leopard at top speed merely would have helped the predator in its endeavor to get a canine snack.

Laurens van der Post wrote about leopard predation upon dogs in Southern Africa in A Story Like the Wind. Although his novel is fiction, it is based upon his real life experiences in the bush.


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