The leopards’ stunning coat is also a death sentence. Despite an agreement protecting these endangered big cats, 2,000 leopards are illegally hunted each year in Africa. Their skins are often used in local rituals and worn by church leaders, witch doctors and presidents as signs of noble power.
Leopards are void in more than 80% of their original range. In addition to trophy and meat hunters, leopards are threatened by livestock farmers who purposely minimize predation with wire fences, fires and poisons to protect their livelihood. But despite the dark side of humans, these big cats are trying to survive.
As the strongest climber of all big cats, leopards can carry quarry twice its weight up into a tree. By dragging fallen deer, pigs and other prey aloft, these big cats safeguard their food from scavengers.
National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence Dereck and Beverly Joubert are working diligently to protect big cats in the wild. Learn more about the leopard species and follow the conservation efforts of National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative.
Big Cat Week Continues… Leopard Queen premieres Tuesday December 7th at 9 PM et/pt on Nat Geo WILD!
Video Preview: Meet a man whose close relationship with leopards allows him to follow mere feet behind one as she runs in for a kill.