Morni Wildlife: Leopard

Leopard (Panthera pardus) an agile and stealthy predator with powerful jaws and can run at a speed of 60 KM/HR. Its the smallest amongst the four ‘Big Cats’, smaller than the lion, tiger and jaguar but can hunt big animals because of its large jaw. It has short powerful legs and can climb trees while carrying large carcasses. The size and weight of leopards vary with quality and availability of prey in the habitat.The males are larger than the females. The coat is golden yellow with black open rosettes. The spots are solid black on the face, limbs and underbelly. The leopard can jump to a height of 10 feet and can jump across 20 feet. It can be seen resting on branches and will carry its kill up a tree and hang it from a branch. It will feed on deer, monkeys,rodents, reptiles, insects, birds, amphibians.It grabs the prey by the throat and strangles it by biting with its powerful jaws. Leopard is a solitary hunter and hunts largely at night. The leopard roars, growls and meows! Females give birth to cubs in caves, crevices and thikets.Cub mortality rates are very high in the first year after which it can fend for itself.Leopards avoid humans and unless incapacitated do not hunt humans. But man-eating leopards are very difficult to hunt down as the animal is exceptionally stealthy and cunning.
The leopard is commonly spotted in and around the Morni hills. The hill women foraging for fuel and fodder in the wilderness frequently come across the big cat. The animal is, however, difficult to photograph. This photograph was taken by Sachin Ranade a research biologist at the Vulture Breeding and Conservation Centre in the Bir Shikargarh Wildlife Sanctuary. This leopard was frequently spotted near a large Banayan tree close to the Centre.

Leopard at Bir Shikargarh WLS (courtesy Sachin Ranade)

There is only one reported incident of a man eater leopard when a boy from village Chhaila was killed in August, 1989 by a leopard that was later shot by Kirnesh Jung, the nephew of the legendary Col. Sher Jung on the rocks near Sherla that are called the Tiger Point.