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Interspecies Conflict/Leopard Fairy Tale?

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Question
Hi Bk,

In the past I've herd plenty of stories about leopards hunting giant eland. Now my question is,do you think those story's are true? To get my opinion on it I just wanna say that a leopard is a fantastic predator and a very capable one. But do I actually think that a leopard could kill a giant eland weighing 10 times more than it does? I have my doubts reconsidering fluke occurrences. But I wanna get your opinion on it.

This next question is gonna be about the Disney movie Tarzan.In the movie there was a fight between a silverback gorilla and a leopard. In the fight the leopard almost won. My question is that could a leopard beat a gorilla in a face to face fight? I think it could using its speed and weaponry. But in the movie it was a leopardess fighting the gorilla and I don't think a leopardess could win against a silverback gorilla reconsidering fluke occurrences again.

Thanks

Answer
Hello Gian.


Q: In the past I've herd plenty of stories about leopards hunting giant eland. Now my question is, do you think those story's are true? To get my opinion on it I just wanna say that a leopard is a fantastic predator and a very capable one. But do I actually think that a leopard could kill a giant eland weighing 10 times more than it does? I have my doubts reconsidering fluke occurrences. But I wanna get your opinion on it.
A: Here is a sampling of an answer I gave a while back ("animal tournament" from 5/24/14) regarding this subject:

"Q: What is the biggest prey taken by a leopard?
A: Leopards have reportedly taken eland as prey, but a full-sized eland can exceed 1000kg in weight (and would likely beyond the leopard's capabilities).  A subadult eland is probably the largest prey item taken by a leopard."

There are many reported incidences of one animal killing another that seem to be extraordinary (tiger killing elephant/rhinoceros, wolverine killing polar bear, etc.), and the extenuating circumstances in each case must be considered before assigning the less-formidable animal a status that isn't warranted.  What was the health or physical condition of the killed animal?  Was it an ambush?  Were there environmental conditions (deep snow, for example) that may have contributed to the dispatched animal's inability to effectively defend itself?  A leopard, like you mentioned, is indeed a fantastic and very capable predator, but I agree with you that it is doubtful that a leopard has ever dispatched a healthy, full-sized bull eland without being aided by the occurrence of some unique circumstance.  It might be argued that a leopard has the jaw strength and technique to suffocate a full-grown eland with a throat bite, but this action would be almost impossible for a leopard to implement while the huge antelope was actively resisting.  A leopard would probably not attempt an ambush on a full-grown eland (the leopard can't risk injury by taking on such a large opponent because it is a solitary hunter), and taking on one face-to-face would be virtually impossible.  A leopard isn't guaranteed a kill when it ambushes a wildebeest or a topi, and these antelopes are considerably smaller than an eland.  A bull eland would be a tough kill for a lion.


Q: This next question is gonna be about the Disney movie Tarzan. In the movie there was a fight between a silverback gorilla and a leopard. In the fight the leopard almost won. My question is that could a leopard beat a gorilla in a face to face fight? I think it could using its speed and weaponry. But in the movie it was a leopardess fighting the gorilla and I don't think a leopardess could win against a silverback gorilla reconsidering fluke occurrences again.
A: Here is an answer from a couple of months ago ("Interspecies Conflict" from 1/9/16) regarding this matchup:

"Leopard vs Gorilla: A large tom leopard will weigh less than half the weight of a gorilla.  Leopards have successfully ambushed sleeping gorillas by quickly getting into a good position to land a killing bite, but face-to-face would be a different scenario.  Leopards have many advantages over a gorilla in terms of combat (agility, quickness, sharp claws, killing experience), and are strong felines pound-for-pound, but one will not have as much absolute strength as a gorilla over twice its size.  Gorillas have long, powerful arms that can be used to grab, pull, or apply blunt force.  They also have a dangerous bite (2" canines; high bite force).  The gorilla will have enough mobility to continue turning toward the leopard to face it on most occasions, and the leopard won't have the desire to tackle the ape head-on when giving up this much size.  A gorilla isn't used to taking on other large animals of another species in combat, but the size & strength advantage it has over the leopard here will give it the edge in this contest (and will chase the cat away in a realistic encounter).  The leopard will need to get into that "killing bite" position, and that will be difficult to do with a large gorilla that's aware of its presence.  Edge to the gorilla."

The leopardess depicted in the Tarzan movie was not nearly as cautious or calculating as a real leopardess would be (and the gorilla moved more like a human than a gorilla).  A big leopard can successfully ambush and kill a gorilla, but the gorilla's use of its hands and arms make it a tough opponent for the cat.  When a leopard attacks an antelope, it attempts to seize the throat with its jaws (after getting into the right position), and the antelope has limited defense options once the leopard acquires this position.  A gorilla will be able to use its grip and strength to keep the leopard at bay, and this will make a throat-bite kill more difficult than it would be with a similar-sized antelope.  It's very doubtful that a leopard would attempt an attack on a full-grown gorilla that was aware of the cat's presence.  A leopard typically shies away from physical encounters with single male baboons, and these primates are much smaller than a gorilla.  Although a leopard has the capability of overcoming a gorilla in a face-to-face battle, it would only have a small chance of actually doing so, and would not realistically make the attempt.  A maximum-sized leopard (up to 200lb) would be a decent matchup for an average-sized gorilla (about 350-360lb), but not a full-sized one (up to 460lb).  A leopardess will weigh less than 1/3 of a large male gorilla's weight and will only have a minimal chance of overcoming the ape in any encounter (ambush or otherwise).


Good questions!


Best regards.  

Interspecies Conflict

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BK

Expertise

Questions regarding animal conflicts within realistic or unrealistic settings are welcome; my strength lies in medium-to-large species. Small animals (including birds of prey), prehistoric animals, sea creatures, and domestic dog breeds are usually within my scope, but to a lesser degree. I can't confidently answer hypothetical questions about human vs animal, arachnids, insects, or amphibians, but I am willing to field them nonetheless.

Experience

From a young age, I have been interested in animals. Starting with the original Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom and World Book Encyclopedias, I have seen many animal shows and documentaries and have read multiple books on the subject. I have a solid understanding of the physiology of many animals and interspecies conflict in general.

Education/Credentials
Associate degree in unrelated field; biology classes in college.

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