A leopard can’t change its spots...
Leopards are extraordinary cats, beautiful yet elusive and probably one the most sought after sightings while on Safari, but have you ever wondered how conservationists or safari guides and rangers know who is who in the leopard world?
Here are a couple of tips on how to identify individual leopards:
The rosette patterns on a leopard’s coat are like fingerprints to humans, but sometimes it’s not possible to use this form of identification if the cat is resting in a tree or half hidden in the bushes.
So another way to identify them would be to look at their face and use the “spot pattern” form of identification.
Spot patterns refer to the uppermost row of spots on the leopard’s cheeks, just above the upper line of whiskers.
There you will see that the leopard’s spot pattern is made up of a number of spots on the right cheek and a number of spots on the left cheek.
In order to correctly identify the cat you would you use the number of spots on the right cheek first and then the number of spots on the left cheek.
So it would look like this 2:3 = 2 spots right cheek and 3 spots left cheek or 2:2 = 2 spots right cheek and 2 spots left cheek etc.
It can be possible that more than one leopard will have the same combination of spots, so other features will have to be taken into account to differentiate them: such as if they are male or female, if there are any distinct scars on the face or body, notches on the ear/s or unusual clusters of spots near the eyes etc.
As leopards are territorial, the knowledge of their territories also plays an important factor regarding their identification.