Leopard scent marking explained:

A video taken by ranger Rul on the 22nd of March 2016 of the territorial male leopard called Watsakile lying on top of a rocky outcrop surveying his territory and scent marking afterwards. Leopards are solitary animals and scent marking plays a vital role in communicating with others. Patrolling their territory, while scent marking, occupies a significant amount of time and plays a vital role in a leopard’s life along with feeding, resting, mating and hunting.

Reasons for scent marking might be anyone of the following:

  • territorial advertising to inform other leopards of their presence
  • a female might mark more regularly than normal to advertise her going into oestrus.

The function will thus be to either avoid (it acts a warning to stay away from the territory) or to find each other more easily (mating).

Scent marking can be done in a variety of ways:

  • the spraying of urine upwards and horizontally onto trees and bushes
  • marking with interdigital glands by clawing the bark of trees just above eye level, but still easily visible
  • marking by raking the ground with their hind claws leaving their scent with interdigital glands
  • reaching up to prominent branches situated just above eye level and rubbing against it with scent glands on their cheeks and heads. Cats have sebaceous glands that coat their hair and skin with an oily secretion. Grooming the fur by their roughly barbed tongue stimulate these glands that are attached to the roots to release secretions. These secretions waterproof the fur and by rubbing against something a chemical signature would also be left behind.

These scent markings can persist for weeks. Leopards are also creatures of habit and will mark the same trees and bushes while patrolling well worn trails. Any prominent feature that might be regularly visited by another leopard will be do. An interesting fact is that leopard scent marking with glands on the head and cheeks would be done as high as possible to try and amplify their height or size.