Field age determination of leopards by tooth wear



Age determination is an important tool in wildlife studies. Estimating the age of animals in the field using tooth wear criteria may be subject to error as a result of variations between individuals, habitats and populations. Data on age estimation of leopards and tooth wear characteristics are lacking. Nineteen leopards in Namibia were assessed for tooth eruption and wear. Between 1991 and 1995 leopards (including 13 individuals of known age) were monitored at one year intervals (‘28 leopard years’) to record age and tooth wear. At the age of two years leopards had fully developed dentition. Wear started with the incisors and canines, and spread to the premolars and molars. A chronology of tooth eruption and wear in relation to age is presented. Above the age of three years, male leopards showed higher frequencies of enamel flaking and canine fractures than females.