The Leopard (Panthera pardus, Linnaeus, 1758) is the most secretive and elusive of the large carnivores, and also the shrewdest. Pound for pound, it is the strongest climber of the larger cats and is capable of killing prey far larger than itself. However, the leopard is the smallest member of the genus Panthera, which includes the Lion, Tiger and Jaguar. Historically, the leopard had a wide distribution across eastern and southern Asia and Africa, from Siberia to South Africa, with fragmented populations in the Indian subcontinent, Sri Lanka, Indochina, Malaysia, Indonesia and China. Sadly, the range has decreased radically due to over hunting and loss of habitat.
After Linnaeus published his description of leopards in the Systema Naturae in 1758, as many as 27 subspecies of leopards were described within a period of 162 years (1794 to 1956), by various scientists.
In 1996, according to genetic (DNA) analysis, nine subspecies are recognized; Panthera pardus pardus (Linnaeus, 1758): Africa, Panthera pardus nimr (Hemprich & Ehrenberg, 1833): Arabia, Panthera pardus saxicolor (Pocock, 1927): Central Asia, Panthera pardus melas (Cuvier, 1809): Java, Panthera pardus fusca (Meyer, 1794): Indian sub-continent, Panthera pardus delacourii (Pocock, 1930): southeast Asia into southern China, Panthera pardus japonensis (Gray, 1862): northern China, Panthera pardus orientalis (Schlegel, 1857): Russian Far East, Korean peninsula and north-eastern China and Panthera pardus kotiya (Deraniyagala, 1956): Sri Lanka, this subspecies is endemic to the island.