On page 31 of the Africa Geographic October 2013 issue, Don Pinnock encounters some loved-up leopards. Following on from that article, here are 5 facts that we bet you didn’t know about the leopard mating ritual!
1. Leopards can mate almost continuously for about 5 days straight, although some leopards have been recorded to continue mating regularly for over a month! With the act happening every 15 minutes or so, they can mate up to 250 times in the 5 day week.
2. Leopard females don’t produce unused eggs like humans do, as this would mean wasted energy. So ovulation only occurs with stimulus. When she is in oestrus her hormones are at a level where she can produce eggs and an unusual scent produced in her urine. She continues to mark her territory, more so than usual, indicating to the male that she is ready for him!
3. Male leopards detect the female urine using their Jacobson’s organ – an amazing olfactory organ that allows them to measure the hormone levels in the females’ urine to determine if she is ready to mate.
4. In order to stimulate female ovulation, the males penis is barbed. This violent affair results in a painful experience for the female and those fantastic photos of her snarling at him while in the act. He does however have weak sperm, note the many times they need to do it before fertilisation can occur.
5. Some research suggests that females can even make themselves less fertile, should the male that arrives not be the dominate male. The reason for this is that she ensures a better life for her cubs, as if they are produced by a weaker male, they may be killed by a more dominate one when he comes into the territory.