Leopard (Panthera pardus)
African Leopard in Etosha National Park, Namibia
Image by Patrick Giraud, CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Leopard (Panthera pardus) has a beautiful rosette patterned coat and is the most widespread of all the big cats. Leopards occur across both Africa and Asia, however in just a few decades they have lost more than 30% of their range. Although Leopards are adaptable and occupy diverse habitats at all altitudes, they are becoming critically endangered in areas that are under extreme pressure due to human expansion.

Panthera Lineage

1. Tiger (Panthera tigris)

2. Lion (Panthera leo)

3. Jaguar (Panthera onca)

4. Leopard (Panthera pardus)

5. Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia)

6. Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa)

7. Sunda Clouded Leopard (Neofelis diardi)

Key Facts Leopards

~ Most widespread of the big cats ~

~ Melanism (black coat) common ~

~ Diverse habitats ~

Classification

Leopards (Panthera pardus) belong to the big cat genus Panthera within the subfamily Pantherinae of the Felidae cat family. The full taxonomy or scientific classification of the Leopard species is:

Kingdom: Animalia (animals)

   Phylum: Chordata (vertebrates)

    Class: Mammalia (mammals)

Order: Carnivora (carnivores)

Suborder: Feliformia (cat-like)

    Family: Felidae (cats)

    Subfamily: Pantherinae (big cats / pantherine)

Genus: Panthera (big cats)

Species: Panthera pardus (leopard)

Subspecies:

P.p. delacouri

P.p. fusca

P.p. kotiya

P.p. melas

P.p. nimr

P.p. orientalis

P.p. pardus

P.p. tulliana

Note: The scientific name for Leopard, Panthera pardus, is also known as the binomial name, species name, latin name, biological name and zoological name. Some use the term 'botanical name' however that is only applicable to the plant kingdom (botany) and not the animal kingdom (zoology).

Leopard (Panthera pardus) Classification Chart
Click chart to download.
Permission to use for personal or educational use.
Credit: www.WildCatFamily.com.
Leopards of the World Print
Leopards of the World Print by Roger Hall
(taxonomy prior to 2017 revision)

Subspecies (Lower Classifications)

Historically up to nine Leopard subspecies (or lower classifications) were recognized based on genetic analysis, and a further two subspecies based on morphological analysis alone (not listed here):

  • Panthera pardus pardus - African Leopard
  • Panthera pardus nimr - Arabian leopard (CR Critically Endangered)
  • Panthera pardus saxicolor - Persian leopard (EN Endangered)
  • Panthera pardus fusca - Indian leopard
  • Panthera pardus kotiya - Sri Lankan leopard (EN Endangered)
  • Panthera pardus melas - Javan leopard (CR Critically Endangered)
  • Panthera pardus delacouri - Indochinese leopard
  • Panthera pardus japonensis - North Chinese leopard (EN Endangered)
  • Panthera pardus orientalis - Amur leopard (CR Critically Endangered)

As per the last Felidae taxonomy revision in 2017 the following eight subspecies of Leopards were proposed:

  • Panthera pardus pardus - Africa
  • Panthera pardus nimr - Arabia
  • Panthera pardus tulliana - South West Asia
  • Panthera pardus fusca - India
  • Panthera pardus kotiya - Sri Lanka
  • Panthera pardus melas - Java
  • Panthera pardus delacouri - South East Asia
  • Panthera pardus orientalis - Eastern Asia

Conservation

The global conservation status for leopards is Vulnerable (VU) and populations are declining (assessed 2015, published 2016 with amendments 2019 and 2020).

Some leopard subspecies have a more severe threatened status than the global status:

  • Panthera pardus nimr - Arabian leopard (CR Critically Endangered 2008)
  • Panthera pardus saxicolor - Persian leopard (EN Endangered 2008)
  • Panthera pardus kotiya - Sri Lankan leopard (EN Endangered 2008, VU Vulnerable - assessed 2019, published 2020)
  • Panthera pardus melas - Javan leopard (CR Critically Endangered 2008)
  • Panthera pardus delacouri - Indochinese leopard (CR Critically Endangered - assessed 2019, published 2019)
  • Panthera pardus japonensis - North Chinese leopard (EN Endangered 2008)
  • Panthera pardus orientalis - Amur leopard (CR Critically Endangered 2008)

Note that the subspecies taxonomy used at the year of assessment is shown above.

An assessment of the populations in the Mediterranean region was rated as CR Critically Endangered - assessed 2008, published 2010.

 

The following organizations are all fighting to conserve our beautiful leopards in the face of persecution, trophy hunting and habitat loss:

Panthera - Project Pardus - Global

African Wildlife Foundation - African Leopard

Cape Leopard Trust - South Africa

World Wildlife Fund WWF - Amur Leopard

Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance

Please support these organizations with their important work if you can. No matter the size of your contribution, every bit helps!

 

 

African leopard walking down a sand dune

African leopard walking

Male African leopard stretching

Facts and Information

The following websites have well researched and authoritative information on Leopards:

 

Big Cat Documentary:

Preview The Secret Lives of Big Cats filmed using high tech starlight and thermal imaging night cameras to capture previously unrecorded behavior. The series includes seven episodes on the secret lives of Lions, Tigers, Jaguars, Leopards, Snow Leopards, Pumas and Cheetahs. Produced by CuriosityStream.

Trips to see Leopards

The following organizations offer tours to Africa or Asia where you are likely to see wild Leopards in their natural habitat. These companies offer small group experiences, support conservation projects, and indicate their trips are environmentally and ethically responsible:

Leopard Safaris - Africa

Leopard Safaris - Asia

Always bear in mind that sightings of any particular animal in its natural environment are not guaranteed and the experience of guides will greatly enhance your success.

Tours to see Leopards in Africa

Leopard Art Prints by Barbara Keith

These stunning images are now available on various product items such as Jigsaw Puzzles, T-shirts and Phone Cases.

If the product item is not listed just contact Barbara and she can add it for you.

Images copyright Barbara Keith.

Leoaprd Art - Felicitous by Barbara Keith
Felicitous by Barbara Keith
Leopard Art - Shadow Hunter by Barbara Keith
Shadow Hunter by Barbara Keith
Leopard Art - Potency by Barbara Keith
Potency by Barbara Keith