Habitat and Distribution|
Leopards occur in most of sub-Saharan Africa. They are found in all habitats with annual rainfall above 50 mm (Monod 1965), and can penetrate areas with less than this amount of rainfall along river courses: e.g., leopards are found along the Orange River in the Richtersveld National Park (South Africa), which lies at the southernmost extension of the Namib Desert (Stuart and Stuart 1989). Out of all the African cats, the leopard is the only species which occupies both rainforest and arid desert habitats. Leopards range exceptionally up to 5,700 m, where a carcass was discovered on the rim of Mt Kilimanjaro’s Kibo Crater in 1926 (Guggisberg 1975). They are abundant on the highest slopes of the Ruwenzori and Virunga volcanoes, and have been observed to drink thermal water (37°C) in Zaire’s Virunga National Park (J. Verschuren in litt. 1993).
However, leopards appear to have become rare throughout much of West Africa (Martin and de
Meulenaer 1988: 11-14). According to T. Anada (in litt. 1993), they have completely
disappeared from much of the Western Sahel.
Figure 6 shows the distribution of the leopard (except for South
Africa, where the range is current). Countries are coded for abundance as determined by Martin and de
Meulenaer (1988) (see explanation below), except that Equatorial Guinea, Mali, Nigeria and
Zimbabwe have been down-graded one category.
© 1996 IUCN - The World Conservation Union