Nicholas School Internship Blogs

Leopard Identifications
by -- July 25th, 2013

Camera-trap photos of leopards on the Neuras Wine & Wildlife Estate, Namibia.

Camera-trap photos of leopards on the Neuras Wine & Wildlife Estate, Namibia.

Above are three photos of leopards. Two photos show the same leopard and one photo shows a different leopard. Can you tell the difference?

Not sure? I’ll help you out.  Start with the clearest photo, the one on the top left:

Leopard photographed with a camera trap on June 12 in the Tsauchab riverbed on the Neuras Wine & Wildlife Estate, Namibia.

Leopard photographed with a camera trap on June 12 in the Tsauchab riverbed on the Neuras Wine & Wildlife Estate, Namibia.

Three areas of this leopard’s coat have distinctive patterns, which you can compare to the other photographs.

Now study the photo on the top right:

Leopard photographed with a camera trap on June 18 at an artificial waterhole on the Neuras Wine & Wildlife Estate, Namibia.

Ignore the blurred right foreleg and focus on the right hind leg. The previous leopard had clear lateral lines of spots. This leopard has rosettes, or clusters of spots.

Next, examine the middle of the abdomen. The first leopard had a small spot surrounded by five rosettes. The second leopard shows a vaguely similar pattern but it has a larger rosette rather than a spot in the middle.

These two photographs show different leopards.

Now take a closer look at the final leopard photograph:

Leopard photographed with a camera trap on July 3rd in a streambed below the Naukluft Mountains on the Neuras Wine & Wildlife Estate, Namibia.

Leopard photographed with a camera trap on July 3rd in a streambed below the Naukluft Mountains on the Neuras Wine & Wildlife Estate, Namibia.

The lines of spots on the first leopard are also prominent on this leopard’s rear hip. That’s pretty conclusive, but for absolute confirmation, examine the other areas, too. The middle red box marks the same small spot surrounded by rosettes as on the first leopard. The red box on the right shows a jagged line of spots on the foreleg that matches the foreleg in the first photograph.

When we look at the whole leopard, the randomness of the spot patterns often appears confusing, but focusing on specific areas makes it pretty easy to tell leopards apart.

Two of the photos represent a great capture-recapture event. There is only one problem: the recapture occurred five hours after the end of the study period.

 

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