AnimalsAsiaLeopardsMammalsWild cats

Persian leopard – the largest leopard

Persian leopard (Panthera pardus ciscaucasica)

The largest leopard

The Persian leopard is the largest leopard subspecies. Their population is estimated at fewer than 1000 mature cats. It’s big and impressive cat, but its fate, similarly to that of Amur leopard is uncertain, one could say – sad.

Classification

  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Carnivora
  • Family: Felidae
  • Genus: Panthera
  • Species: leopard (Panthera pardus)
  • Subspecies: Persian leopard (Panthera pardus ciscaucasica / Panthera pardus saxicolor)
  • Names: Persian leopard, Caucasian leopard, Central Asian leopard
Persian leopard (Panthera pardus ciscaucasica)
Persian leopard (Panthera pardus ciscaucasica).

Occurrence and habitats

It is likely found over the whole Caucasus, except for steppes. Studies conducted between 2001 and 2005 confirmed that the subspecies didn’t occur in the western part of the Greater Caucasus, and it survived only in several parts of the eastern region.

The largest modern-day population lives in Iran, but political and social changes in the former Soviet Union in 1992 caused a serious economic crisis and weakened the former effective protection systems.

Generally speaking, the population of the Persian leopard is significantly fragmented, and due to the lack of monitoring methods it is difficult to estimate the decrease in the number of these beautiful felids.

Number of individuals

  • Iran – 550-850 individuals; the country is the Persian leopard’s refuge in Western Asia
  • Afghanistan – 200-300 individuals
  • Turkestan – 78-90 individuals
  • Armenia, Azerbaijan – less than 10-13 individuals
  • The North Caucasus – less than 10 individuals
  • Turkey, Georgia – less than 5 individuals
  • Nagorno-Karabakh – 3-4 individuals

The Persian leopard avoids deserts, areas with long-duration snow cover, and places in the vicinity of cities. It inhabits subalpine meadows, deciduous forests, ravines in the Greater Caucasus, rocky slopes, mountainous steppes, and sparse juniper forests in the Lesser Caucasus and Iran.

Persian leopard (Panthera pardus ciscaucasica).
Persian leopard (Panthera pardus ciscaucasica).

Characteristics

Appearance

Although the size of this predator depends on the geographical region which it inhabits, it doesn’t differ much from other representatives of the species. Usually, it has relatively short limbs, robust and strong posture. On the back, sides and hips there are black rosettes, and on the head, neck, chest and stomach – small “dots”.

The background color for these markings ranges between light yellow and deep gold, except for the underside of the body from the chin to the tail, which is bright. The rosettes and markings stretch up to the tip of the tail, which constitutes 60-75% of body length with the head. The skull is large in comparison to the rest of the body, therefore, the strong jaw muscles can work flawlessly.

Persian leopard (Panthera pardus ciscaucasica).
Persian leopard (Panthera pardus ciscaucasica).

Diet, hunting techniques, lifestyle

The menu of the Persian leopard is rather diverse, because this predator can adapt to the changes in populations of animals which it hunts. Because of that, its diet may be different throughout the whole range of distribution. In Iran, Armenia and Turkestan, it feeds on Bezoar goat and mouflons that are fundamental in its diet.

The Persian leopard observes its prey from an overlook, such as a tree or a ledge. When the prey is localized, the Persian leopard approaches it and then attacks it.

It is commonly believed to be nocturnal, but there are very few studies and recorded observations that would allow a better examination of the Persian leopard’s habits. However, it seems that it is active at daytime more frequently in places where there are no other large predators (tigers).

Reproduction

Although they’re usually solitary, males sometimes stay with females for a short time after mating. The breeding season lasts through the whole year, but its peak is in the winter. One litter consists of 1-4 cubs, after the gestation period of 90-105 days. Cubs become independent between 13th and 18th month of life, and the average lifespan is 10-15 years, although Persian leopards may live even to 20 years.

Persian leopard (Panthera pardus ciscaucasica).
Persian leopard (Panthera pardus ciscaucasica).

Detailed information / size

Persian leopard (Panthera pardus ciscaucasica / Panthera pardus saxicolor)

  • Body length: 91 – 191 cm (2ft 12in – 6ft 3in), medium: 158 cm (5ft 2in)
  • Tail length: 58 – 110 cm (23 – 43in)
  • Weight: males: 37 – 90 kg (82-198 lb); females: 28 – 60 kg (62 – 132lb)
  • Lifespan: 10 – 15 years

Persian leopard – interesting facts

  • Out of the eight recognized subspecies, the Persian leopard is one of the largest representatives of the species.
  • The Persian leopard has been classed as endangered, and the Amur leopard is a critically endangered species.
  • The reasons for the extinction of these two subspecies include: deforestation, poaching, presence of military and training of soldiers in border areas, fire, development of agriculture and infrastructure. Human activity is the main reason for the extinction of this subspecies.
Persian leopard (Panthera pardus ciscaucasica)
Persian leopard (Panthera pardus ciscaucasica).

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