The Leopards of Northern Highland Forest Reserve : Ngorongoro is the largest natural ecosystem in the world, with a bowl-like shape that acts as a natural enclosure. It is one of the most expensive and rewarding places for watching wildlife down the crater to about six hundred meters (600 meters). The Ngorongoro Crater of Tanzania is known for famous Big 5 animals (Leopard, Lion, Cape Buffalo, Elephant, and Black Rhinoceros) sightings.
There is a large population of Leopards on the Southern and Eastern slopes of the Ngorongoro crater. The Southern and Eastern slopes the covered by a natural forest called Nothern Highland Forest Reserve (NHRF). The Nothern Highland Forest Reserve is home to Leopards covering an area of 893 Km2 (approximately 20 percent of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA)). Check out these facts about the Leopards of Northern Highland Forest Reserve.
HUNTING FOR FOOD
In general, Leopards are carnivore animals. So, their preferred food sources are Warthogs, hares, bugs, fish, antelope, Baboons, monkeys, rodents, deer, wildebeests, and many more. The Ngorongoro crater is home to many wildlife. Therefore, leopards (big cats) tend to have a variant diet by feeding on different available prey.
Night Hunts: Leopards are usually active for night hunting (nocturnal animals). Due to that fact, a night drive around the Ngorongoro forest reserves gives the best chance of viewing the hunting leopards and other night hunters such as Owls, Bats, hyenas, hedgehogs, and porcupines.
Hunting at Night for food is an approach for the Leopards to catch prey since they are invisible in the darkness. When a leopard spots potential food, it approaches with its legs bent and head low in order not to be seen. It then moves slowly, quietly, and carefully toward its prey-up rage of 5-10 meters. Then it bounces forward for bites the throat or neck of the prey and holds it tight to death. After killing, the leopard takes the role of eating all the meat leaving only bones and ribs for the Hyenas.
Day Time Hunts: During the day drives around the Ngorongoro Crater, you will spot the Leopards taking a rest on Acacia trees, lying on top of huge Rocks, or hiding in caves. They like staying on top of trees or rocks to see the location of their prey and sometimes catch the unaware animals passing down by a rapid jump on them.
When it comes to day hunting of the leopard, after becoming aware of the location of prey such as zebras or wildebeest grazing in groups, they focus them directly by a fast chase until they manage to kill one for food. It is interesting to see the Leopards running at 58km/hr to catch prey. They stretch like a spring and can leap up to 6m forward through the air, which is the same as the length of free adults lying head to toe. It can be an unforgettable safari of watching and taking fascinating photos of these big cats in their habitats and hunting period.
In light of these fats, a female Leopard can give birth twice a year. They have a gestation period of not less than three months. The leopard of the Northern Highland Forest Reserve (NHFR) live in a conducive breeding environment and get plenty of food from their prey in the Ngorongoro crater. Considering all those factors, these Leopards give birth to a minimum of 3 cubs compared to other Leopards who usually give birth to 2 cubs. The young leopards (cubs) remain under their mother’s care until they become capable of hunting and start their own life for about two years.