Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Leopards - The Shadows Of Africa

After watching a documentary about leopards, I have developed a new found respect for these extraordinary cats. Leopards are sometimes known as the shadows of Africa, due to the secretive lives they lead. Leopards prefer to remain undetected, especially by predators such as lions and, sometimes, other leopards. They are some of the smartest cats, sometimes outranking even lions in hunting strategy.
  When we think of leopards, we think of a larger, killer African cat. Or at least some of us do. But rarely do we realize that leopards are much different than any other cat. Mothers are extremely caring and protective, constantly defending their cubs from predators and moving them to safe places. They make hard choices sometimes, whether to leave their cub behind when a predator spots them or to risk their life trying to protect their baby. In the end, they usually end up staying with the cub.
 Lions, hyenas and even baboons are all threats to leopards. Though leopards are strong and can be savage when they want, they are very smart: they don't pick fights, and they retreat when confronted by an enemy rather than risking their life in a battle. That is remarkable behavior for a predator, especially a cat. When lions try to steal a leopard's kill, the leopard lets them, knowing it isn't worth getting injured.
  Mother leopards work hard - much harder than we realize. Their babies are under constant danger, from all kinds of creatures. Baboons, lions of course, hyenas, and other large mammals. The mother leopard must find a safe spot for her kittens, usually a den. If baboons locate the cubs, the mother fiercely defends them, then moves them to a safer spot. She is a single mother, you know, so all the work is left to her. In a pride of lions, the work is split up - the male is the defender and protector, and the females do the hunting. But the mother leopard does all of this herself. She must protect the cubs at all cost, and hunt for both them and herself, then later teach them by letting them accompany her.
Leopards are extremely powerful, fast and clever. They are fantastic climbers and therefore are at home in trees. They have been known to drag prey more than twice their weight up a tree and onto a branch, where it will be safe from lions and hyenas and where the leopard can feast on it easily. Climbing up a tree is easier than getting down it, so the leopard has to move carefully, digging its claws into the bark before leaping down. In trees it is not only content but safe from predators. Lions aren't very good at climbing, mainly because they're too heavy and not as agile as leopards. Even when following a leopard up a tree, they usually give up climbing after a few minutes.
Leopards are not the killers some people think of them as. Attacks are extremely rare, which is strange considering that leopards have many opportunities to kill people and choose not to. People must be the easiest prey on Earth, and yet leopards do not attack them, even when given the chance. Even shy cats like cougars sometimes take advantage of an opportunity, but leopards almost never do. Instead they prefer to slink into the shadows when a human passes by, keeping hidden.
Leopards are much more at home in the water, too, then many cats, and they are excellently strong swimmers. Though we know tigers love water, we usually don't realize that leopards do too. They will swim across rivers and ponds to catch prey or when looking for or patrolling a territory, and sometimes eat fish or crabs if they can catch them.
  Leopards usually hunt on the ground, stalking low in tall grass where they can hardly be seen. They keep silent, their paws making almost no sound at all, their tail curled at the end and their shoulders bunched. They usually prey on large mammals such as antelope, gazelle and wildebeest, but their range of food is wide. They will hunt small mammals, deer, warthogs, and occasionally birds as well. Unlike lions, who try to create panic, leopards generally sneak up on their prey, get as close as they can, and pounce. They drag their victim to the ground, giving a lethal bite to the neck of the neck to suffocate their prey. Once the animal is dead, they drag it either up a tree or to a secluded spot in a burrow or in tall grass where it is not likely to be discovered. If lions or hyenas happen to find it, the leopard leaves and hunts another animal for itself.
  Leopards communicate silently, almost as if they are reading each other's minds. Sometimes they use low roars or growls, but usually they talk using eye contact and body language.
 Leopards are perhaps the most widespread cats in the world. They are native to more than 35 African countries, and also live in many parts of Asia, though Asian leopards are slightly different - not as heavy and usually lighter colored. Some also live in the Middle East. Amur leopards (below), in Russia, are extremely rare. They are critically endangered, and there is said to be as little as 50 living in the wild. These leopards endure freezing cold winters, and in Siberia they are one of the only large predators - with the except of the Amur or Siberian tiger - so they are not in as much danger there as in Africa, although poachers have claimed many lives.

    As you can see, the Amur leopard is larger than the African one, with a thicker coat and tail. They are perhaps one of the rarest cats in the world and the most elusive - the chance of actually seeing an Amur leopard in the wild is next to nothing.
Here's some quick facts:
Leopards can weigh up to 140 pounds.
Leopards are about 48 inches tall at the shoulder.
In captivity, leopards may live up to 21 years.
Usually one or two cubs are born after a gestation period of 2.5 months

Leopards are often considered a nuisance to farmers, who claim they kill livestock. Leopards have been poisoned and shot by many people, and have also been hunted for their exotic coats. Well, I'll tell you one thing: leopard's skin does not belong on humans.
I hope you all have learned one thing from this post: leopards are amazing, truly wonderful animals from God. They are smart, much less dangerous and aggressive than other big cats, and do not deserve to be killed, especially for their beautiful coats. They should be protected and respected for what they are.
 Adios, my friends, for my post about the Shadows of Africa has come to an end.

Monday, September 10, 2012

African Lion

The tough African Lion is one of Africa's top predators. Unlike most other big cats, lions stay together in a pride. The pride consists mainly of one or two males, several females, and their young. While most other big cats are solitary and live alone, lions prefer to hunt and feed in prides.
  Lions are second only to the Siberian Tiger in size. They are a beautiful golden brown, although some have a rare coloring of white which usually is found in Asian Lions.
      African Lions are cooperative hunters and will use teamwork to take down a large animal. Lions will eat almost anything they can get a hold of. Although their diet consists mainly of wildebeest, zebra, buffalo, gazelle, and antelope, they will also catch birds, hares, and even young elephants and giraffes if they can get a hold of them.
   The female lions are the pride's primary hunters, and they will teach their cubs how to hunt as well. The males may help with the hunting once and awhile, but mainly their job is to protect the pride from intruders and guard their territory from other lions or hyenas.
Hunting is a dangerous time for lions. They will often crouch in the grass in different places. They try to create panic in large herds, and in the confusion some of the herd will get separated. Lions will pick off the weakest of the animals and go for them, working together to take their prey down. They must be careful though, as buffalo and wildebeest are well equipped and may kick or ram the lions with their horns.
  When hunting solitary prey, lions will crouch down in the grass, creep up close, and chase their prey into a hidden lion's path.
During feeding time, the male will eat first, then when he's had his share he'll let the females and their cubs take over.


The female will go to a secluded spot away from the pride to give birth. She will give birth to one to four cubs, which are helpless at birth. The female will hunt by herself and bring the kill back to the cubs to keep an eye on them while she eats. She will guard her cubs protectively from other animals, such as hyenas, other lions, and any other animals who happen to be nearby.
   Usually after six to eight weeks the female will introduce her cubs to the pride. They aren't old enough to be taught to hunt yet, but they will imitate their mother and watch what she does when she hunts.
  Cubs face many dangers including starvation. They also have many predators. Hyenas will grab a young lion if given the chance, and also other predators like Jackals, Leopards, eagles, and snakes can be deadly dangers to them.
Facts about Lions 

* When they are two and a half and three years old, lions will begin learning to hunt, and Male lions reach maturity at about three years of age and usually will be kicked out of their own pride to challenge another male and take his pride.
* African Lions are large and built for speed and strength. Females have a strong, compact body with short, strong legs and a long tail which helps them keep their balance when turning sharply in pursuit of prey. Their jaws are large with long, knife-sharp teeth.
* Males grow an impressive dark mane, making them look larger and more dominant to other predators like hyenas. Although some males are maneless, this is very rare.
   * Male lions are known to be very aggressive when it comes to defending their turf. They will aggressively scent mark their territory, and if an intruder comes they will viciously roar and bare their teeth in warning. If the intruder doesn't back off, the male may fight it and kill it, however this would be difficult if the intruder was another male lion.
      * Lions will steal kills from hyenas, leopards, jackals, and wild dogs.
* Lions once roamed over most of Africa and parts of Asia and Europe, but today they are only found in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, except for one very small population of Asian lions that still survives today in India's Gir Forest.

Ghosts of the Snow

The wind is chilly and light, the ground thickly blanketed with white snow. Tiny flakes fall from the sky, perfect. The air is frigidly cold, and the tree branches are covered with icicles. In the distance, a shape moves silently and swiftly through the snow, nearly hidden from view. Its eyes are a golden with a fleck of dark in the middle, paws thickly padded and long tail curved at the end.
In this post we travel to the harsh woodland forests of Siberia and Northern Russia to see the endangered Siberian Tiger, one of the most elusive animals on Earth. These big cats are often called, "Ghosts of the snow," because they are very rarely glimpsed by humans and blend into their surroundings exceedingly well. 
Siberian Tigers are listed as critically endangered, with only a few hundred still living in the wild. These powerful predators are formidable hunters, reaching speeds of up to fifty miles per hour. Humans top off at five.
Siberian Tigers will travel many miles to hunt prey. Their diet consists mainly of Siberian Elk, Siberian Deer, wild boar, game birds, and other small mammals. They are very patient and will crouch in the grass waiting for prey. When it comes, they'll creep up close, spring quickly onto their prey's back and sink their teeth into the back of its neck in a lethal bite.
Once the prey is dead, the tiger will hide it in a secluded area where it won't likely be taken from other predators. The tiger will stay close to its kill and feed on it over the next few days, guarding it from other predators like other tigers, Amur Leopards, or Arctic Wolves.
    Siberian Tigers are solitary and live alone most of the year, only putting up with each other during mating season in late winter. Male tigers might fight each other for a mate, and sometimes the battles can lead to injury or even death.
  Siberian Tigers often have very large territories and will viciously fight off other tigers or leopards if they intrude on its turf.

A female Siberian Tiger resting in a national park (above).
More facts about the Siberian Tiger

* Siberian Tigers are the largest cats in the world.

* Siberian Tigers can weigh up to 300 pounds.

* Siberian Tigers live in Birch wood forests and vast woodlands.

* These big cats, although mostly found in Siberia and Northern Russia, do exist in China and North Korea.

When most people think of Siberian tigers, or any tigers really, they think of them as killers - ferocious beasts. But tigers are not nearly as dangerous as most people think. In fact they are so elusive that the chance of even seeing one in the wild is extremely low. These magnificent predators prefer not to be seen by humans, as many confrontations with poachers have left them fearing us. Attacks are very rare and commonly only occur if a person intrudes on the tiger's territory or if a tigress is protecting her cubs.
  I watched a couple documentaries about these big cats and it strengthened my admiration and love for these gorgeous predators. What these animals go through is rarely realized by many people. When raising a family, all the work falls onto the tigress. It is she who has to feed her cubs, and she who must protect them from harm. Tigers who turn into man eaters are usually sick, old, injured or too young to hunt for themselves, so they turn to humans for food. Tigers that have been in a fight with another tiger and are wounded will sometimes attack people because they cannot hunt normally and are starving. Orphans will sometimes do this too, as their mother cannot give them food and therefore they turn to the easiest prey they can find: us. Tigers are not nearly as opportunistic as lions, which is mainly why they do not prefer to attack humans - they generally only do this if it is the only option left.
  Sometimes mothers themselves will kill humans to feed their cubs, but this does not technically make them man eaters. They are simply trying to feed their family, and do not deserve to be killed. If this happens, their babies will soon perish without her to feed them.
 Poachers have killed dozens and dozens of tigers for their body parts and fur, which are all worth a fair amount of money. I watched a documentary that showed this, and I was so furious by the end of it that I could hardly think straight. These amazing cats deserve to live, to prosper, rather than being hunted by selfish people who don't care about them. They are now protected by government, but poachers are still killing them, even today, and making a profit.
Tigers cannot die out. They are too beautiful, too amazing, too magnificent. If you can help in any way, please contribute in the efforts to save this dying species.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

A World of Animals

I've always loved studying animals and watching documentaries on the TV and computer. I especially love the big cats, like Siberian Tigers, Jaguars, Leopards, Cougars, and African Lions. Wolves intrigue me too, and I have been a horse lover for as long as I can remember. Each animal is different and unique in its own way, even though some are not exactly the most beautiful or the smartest. Most animals really do have personalities and can form bonds with others. In a wolf pack, many of the wolves are devoted to each other and show relationships similar to humans'. Some animals look out for each other, while others prefer to live alone.
   This blog is mainly to show you how beautiful and majestic many animals are, from the quick Osprey bird to the tough Arctic Wolf. I love both Geography AND animals, and they fit together pretty well. I'm also going to be blogging about different habitats, from hot, dry deserts to the below-freezing Arctic to humid jungles teeming with wildlife.
  If you want some cool documentaries to watch I would recommend "Uncut and Untamed," "African Wild Cats; Wild Cats of the World," "Imax: Deep Sea," "Chased By Dinosaurs," "Lions and Hyenas," and "Hunter and Hunted." Most of these are available on Netflix.
This blog will show how different many animals are, what their habits are, their behavior, where they normally live, and more. There is such a wide variety of animals on this Earth, several of which are endangered.
I love writing about animals and studying them, so I decided I'd share my information with you on this blog. I hope this blog will inspire you to learn about all the animals that you can, to go and see the ones that live in your area, and to truly appreciate them and respect them as God's miraculous gifts.
So get your binoculars, pack up your gear, and come out with me on a day of adventure around the world!