How do Leopards Mark their Range?
Leopards (Panthera pardus) are largely solitary animals, with exceptions being females with cubs, or pairs briefly during courtship and mating periods. For this reason, leopards of both sexes need to defend territories. Each sex selects their territories based on different needs. Females select their territories based on density of prey and availability of den sites, and males select theirs based on prey density and availability of females. Therefore, a male territory may encompass multiple female territories. A Leopard territory can vary in size depending on these needs and can be anywhere between 5 and 1 000 km2.Mp>
These elusive cats have excellent senses, and this is evident when it comes to the different methods used in demarcating the boundaries of their territories. Both sexes use urine to mark their territories, and often after urinating a male will then scrape the ground to transfer the scent of his urine onto his feet to be carried during territorial boundary patrols. Leopards are also often seen rubbing their faces and necks on vegetation as they are walking along their territory. By doing this, the Leopard is transferring secretions from a cheek gland, which then carries olfactory messages to other Leopards.
Leopards make use of visual territorial markings. These “territorial beacons” are denoted by means of conspicuous defecation or clawed marks on tree trunks. Additionally, by claw marking trees, Leopards are able to maintain their claws by removing bits of frayed claw sheath.
A Leopard call, which is comparable to the sound of sawing wood, is a sound not familiar to most. These rasping vocalisations serve as long distance messages to denote their territories. It is possible to distinguish the sex of the Leopard calling, as female calls are usually longer in duration and higher in frequency of rasps than that of males.
As solitary hunters, Leopards cannot afford the risk of injury, and it is through a combination of these olfactory, visual and vocal methods that Leopards can advertise their territories while warding off intruders to avoid altercations.
Photos Property of Panthera
Text by Leopard Survey Monitor Lauren Offord