“So boldly marked by dark rosettes on tawny skin…” is a line from a poem that describes the leopard. Known as the most secretive and elusive of the large carnivores found in the wild, the leopard is a magnificent sight to behold for those who get the opportunity to see it. Leopards can be found in a number of national parks in Uganda. They are however very solitary creatures and if you get an opportunity catch sight of one on safari in Uganda, you should count your blessings. They are hard to see, much less photograph.
Leopards spend most of their days strolling through the savannah or the forests, hiding in tree or caves. The leopards are very solitary animal and are very rarely seen in pairs. While other carnivores such as lions can live in groups/ prides, that is not the case with leopards, these animals are loners. The only time you can see them in pairs is during mating. But because they are solitary animals they do not multiply as much as other animals that live in groups.
They are very fast and stealthy and the spots on their skins provide camouflage which helps them hide and difficult to spot. They are also nocturnal and that is why it is extremely rare to spot them on a game drive through the parks.
Lions sometimes hunt and kill leopards, so they avoid lions. They also avoid hyena, which are annoying enough to steal their kill/food before the leopard has time to hide it.
Leopards are very adaptable. No matter what their surroundings are. Be it rainforests, jungles, deserts, mountains, or savannah, they are able to adapt and survive in their environment.
They are very fast and agile and can pounce on prey from trees and haul them up the trees. They are strong and can take down prey which is three times their size.
They are also very good swimmers and can hunt fish in water, and other things such as reptiles, insects, and animals that may be grazing near the water. If leopards are living near human settlements, they will feed on livestock such as goats and chickens.
Leopards do not have a specific mating period; they can mate any time of the year. Conception takes can happen about 90 to 100 days later.
A female leopard can give birth to up to four cubs. The mother finds a cave or well protected area to protect and raise her cubs. The mortality of leopard cubs is very high though. It is at about 50%. Those that survive stay with the mother leopard for about 1 ½ to 2 years, during which time they paly with each other and learn to hunt for their own food.
Here is a list of parks where you stand a chance of seeing leopards in Uganda;
Kidepo Valley National Park
Murchison Falls National Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park
Lake Mburo National Park
Semiliki National Park
Be sure to visit one of these parks on your Uganda safari, you just might be one of the few lucky one.