Within some game reserves the guides use a simple method to quickly identify the leopards they find on game drive.
Each leopards spot pattern is unique which makes identifying individual leopards relatively easy.
When we see leopards in the bush it’s often easiest to focus on the detailed pattern on its face and use a simple count of the spots on the face for quick identification purposes.To do this we count the uppermost row of spots on the leopard’s cheeks. These are the spots above the upper line of whiskers. We can then refer to the ratio between each cheek first on the right cheek and then the left cheek. This means that in the example below there are two spots on the right and two on the left giving a 2:2 ratio.
This cheek spot ratio gives a great starting point to identify a leopard, but of-course it is possible that two leopards in the same reserve will have the same spot ratio. It may also be the case that the leopard is moving or at a distance. However there are generally other identification marks we can use. For example in the picture above there is a scar running down the nose, but it could also be a distinctive rosette shape on the body or similar unique markings.
The estimated age of an animal is also an aid to identification together with understanding the territories of the various leopards.
Overall its great fun getting to know the individual leopards who we see on safari.
Written by Will Fox