Leopards (Panthera pardus) are a poorly understood, solitary felid, and additional study could provide novel insights into both evolution and conservation management. We studied the reproductive biology of 7 adult female and 2 adult male leopards on Karongwe, South Africa, from 1999 to 2005. We intensively researched copulatory biology from 2001 to 2003, during which we observed 19 consortships and 4,855 copulations (1,809 copulations visually) during 2,449 h of following consort pairs. Leopards copulated on average 4 times per hour, with an average of 256 copulations per consortship. Conception rate was low, resulting, on average, after 2.3 consortships (SE = 0.4 consortships). All reproductive parameters except gestation length were shorter than those in published literature, which we suspect reflected a facultative response to superabundant resources. Although females produced the expected 1.6 cubs per year, lifetime reproductive rates on Karongwe Reserve were approximately half that reported elsewhere due to lower female survival resulting from intraspecific factors. These results offer encouragement for founding new populations of endangered felids in areas of high prey availability and resource abundance, provided factors affecting population regulation can be managed.
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Vol. 91 • No. 5