This posting focuses on leopards of Africa. We saw them several times during our safari and each time was a special event. They are magnificent animals and are among my favorites of the trip. Leopards are mentioned a previous posting on predators.
The leopard in the cover picture is one of a series at one location.
Leopards are not pack animals but like the lions they are maternal family providers. Yep, momma brings home the antelope. She is out there birthing, nursing, protecting, chasing, fighting and guaranteeing that there is enough for all or else there is no next generation. Except for the lions, male cats are solo actors coming together for mating during estrus season.
It was easier to watch the leopards than the cheetah because they were more frequently found in areas that we visited. Their visually attractive spotted coats and near proximity to our vehicle made the desire to touch/pet them very strong. As they moved through the underbrush, grass and trees this provided an opportunity to see them from all angles. Only the single female cats were seen but our guide insisted that a single kitten was placed in hiding. We never saw the little ones.
The coloration of these animals is not as diverse as pedigree house pets, but they are so impressive. The cheetah and leopard pelts are similar, however, the leopard spots are more distinctive because of their increased pattern diversity. The patterns on the cat coats make them very difficult to distinguish from their surroundings. It is easy to see that the value component of color helps to break up the visual image.
Watching them was like watching water flow. There was no resistance to their smooth movements as they slipped through the grass or leaped through the tree canopy. Their eyes were so brilliant, they were a dazzling attraction better than a “cat eye” agate.
False Color Image
Perception used for hunting by humans is mostly by visual search. This includes shape, color, movement and patterns which attract attention. For most other animals the visual cues that attracts attention are movement and shape. Animal vision sensitivity, focal point and wavelength is different from human. Cats share a common visual perception of the world. Their eyes have a physiology and anatomy very different from humans. Their eyes are exceptionally large making close focusing difficult. The light receptors in the retina of the back of the cat’s eyes don’t have the receptors for red and blue. They best see yellows and greens. A sub-retinal reflective layer increases sensitivity. This layer is what makes the cat eyes look bright when reflecting a pointed light in dim setting. These adaptations are best used for vision at twilight and night. During the daylight hours the coat colors and patterns may make them seem nearly invisible.
A Few Notes About Cat Physiology
Odors for animals are also very different from humans. It has a much broader range for which there are no clear terms. The world experienced by differing species may result in vastly divergent perceptions and experiences. It is difficult to describe a multi-dimensional odor and sound world. We simply don’t have a vocabulary to express our understanding of these concepts.
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#Africa #Okavango #Maasai Mara #leopard #vision #spots #perception