Leopard (Panthera pardus) : The Dr. Khalaf-von Jaffa Websites

The Zanzibar Leopard

The Zanzibar Leopard (Panthera pardus adersi, Pocock 1932)*.

By: Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Bassam Ali Taher Khalaf-Sakerfalke von Jaffa.


*Note: This Article was published in "Gazelle: The Palestinian Biological Bulletin". Number 74, February 2008, pp. 1-13.


The Zanzibar Leopard (Panthera pardus adersi, Pocock 1932) is an elusive and possibly extinct subspecies of leopard endemic to Unguja Island in the Zanzibar archipelago, part of Tanzania. Increasing conflict between people and leopards in the 20th century led to their demonization and determined attempts to exterminate them. Efforts to develop a leopard conservation programme in the mid-1990s were shelved when wildlife researchers concluded that there was little prospect for the animal's long-term survival.

Evolutionary History: 
The evolutionary history of the Zanzibar Leopard parallels that of other endemics on Unguja, including the Zanzibar Servaline Genet and the Zanzibar Red Colobus. It is thought to have evolved in isolation from the African Leopard since at least the end of the last ice age, when the island was separated from mainland Tanzania by rising sea levels. The founder effect and adaptation to local conditions produced a smaller leopard than its continental relatives and one which “changed its spots”, or rather saw its more numerous rosettes partially disintegrate into spots.

Subspecies and Physical Characteristics:
The Zanzibar Leopard (Panthera pardus adersi) with its local Kiswahili name "Chui Konge" has a dark colour with a faint spot pattern and is now thought to be extinct.

There is a second Zanzibar Leopard subspecies (Panthera pardus tenius) with its local Kiswahili name "Chui Kisutu" and is also living in Unguja. 
Both the two types of leopard recorded are smaller in size than those on the mainland.
”Chui Kisutu” is lighter in colour with a compact spot pattern and is still occasionally seen, especially in Southern Unguja. 

Biology and Behaviour: 
The biology and behaviour of the Zanzibar Leopard are poorly understood. Only five skins have been located in museums, including the type specimen in the Natural History Museum, London, and a much-faded mounted specimen in the Zanzibar Museum. The Zanzibar Leopard has never been studied in the wild and the last time a researcher claimed in print to have seen one was in the early 1980s. Most zoologists presume the Zanzibar Leopard to be extinct or very nearly so. The population size is totally not known. However, Zanzibar government statistics indicate that leopards were still being killed by hunters in the mid-1990s, and islanders continue to report sightings and the predation of livestock.

Demonization and Extermination: 
Rural ZanzibarisÂ’ descriptions of the leopard and its habits are coloured by the widespread belief that a large number of these carnivores are kept by witches and sent by them to harm or otherwise harass their fellow villagers and scare them off their homes. This belief comes together with an elaborate package of ideas about how leopards are bred, trained, exchanged and sent to do the evil bidding of their owners. For local farmers this supplies a neat explanation for predation by leopards, and more generally for their appearance "out of place" in the vicinity of farms and villages. 

The growth of human population and agriculture in the 20th century was largely responsible for this state of affairs, as people encroached on the habitat of leopards and the animals they preyed upon. Increasing conflict with leopards and the fear that this generated led to a series of campaigns to exterminate them. These were localized at first, but became island-wide after the Zanzibar Revolution of 1964, when a combined anti-witchcraft and leopard-killing campaign was launched under the leadership of Unguja’s most famous witch-finder, Kitanzi. The long-term result of this campaign and the subsequent classification of leopards as “vermin” were to bring them to the brink of extinction.
Zanzibar Leopards are associated by local people with witchcraft and are also hunted for their skins. There are reports that witchdoctors on the islands keep these leopards in captivity to assist them with their magic-making and it is possible that “Chui Konge” may still survive in this context, although it is impossible to substantiate.

Conservation and other Proposals: 
Lajos Jozsa (1995) wrote: “The Zanzibar Leopard: Despite of much ignorance around biologists, this is the world's rarest cat! When I first heard about the situation of this cat and I saw the footprints, I contacted the IUCN when I got home. 15 months later, when the first biologists were finally sent to the Island for a field-study, there were no more leopards left! The Zanzibar Leopard at the Zanzibar Museum is the only Zanzibar-leopard that you can see, and it is stuffed since 1945. There's not even one picture of a living one! Special: Brown spots, eats fish and is very small!”

Serious attention was not paid to the Zanzibar leopard's plight until the mid-1990s, by which time some authorities were already listing it as extinct. A leopard conservation programme was drafted by the CARE-funded Jozani-Chwaka Bay Conservation Project, but abandoned in 1997 when wildlife researchers failed to find evidence for the leopard's continuing presence in and around Jozani Forest. 

Local wildlife officials, however, have remained more optimistic about the leopard's survival, and some Zanzibaris have proposed approaching alleged leopard keepers in order to ask them to display their leopards to paying visitors. Villagers sometimes offer to take tourists or researchers to see "domesticated" leopards in return for cash, but so far none of these "kept leopard chases" has been known to end in a successful sighting.


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Khalaf-Sakerfalke von Jaffa, Norman Ali Bassam Ali Taher (2007). Um Rishat (Caracal or Desert Lynx). Wikipedia, Al-Mawsu'a Al-Hurra (The Free Encyclopedia). Gazelle: The Palestinian Biological Bulletin. 2007. (Article in Arabic).
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Khalaf-Sakerfalke von Jaffa, Norman Ali Bassam Ali Taher (2007). Die Sandkatze oder Wüstenkatze (Felis margarita, Loche 1858). Gazelle: Das Palästinensische Biologische Bulletin. 2007. (Article in German; References in English, German and Arabic). http://www.geocities.com/jaffacity/Sandkatze.html
Khalaf-Sakerfalke von Jaffa, Norman Ali Bassam Ali Taher (2007). Behavioural Observations on the Arabian Sand Cat (Felis margarita harrisoni, Hemmer, Grubb and Groves 1976) at Al Ain Zoo, Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Gazelle: The Palestinian Biological Bulletin. 2007. (Article in Arabic; References in English and German). Khalaf-Sakerfalke von Jaffa, Norman Ali Bassam Ali Taher (2007). Behavioural Observations on the Arabian Sand Cat (Felis margarita harrisoni, Hemmer, Grubb and Groves 1976) at the ArabiaÂ’s Wildlife Centre, Desert Park, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. Gazelle: The Palestinian Biological Bulletin. 2007. (Article in Arabic; References in English and German).
Khalaf-Sakerfalke von Jaffa, Norman Ali Bassam Ali Taher (2007). Felidae Arabica. A Zoological Journey in Palestine, Arabia and Europe between 1980-2007 / Felidae Arabica. Eine Zoologische Reise in Palaestina, Arabien und Europa zwischen 1980-2007. Erste Auflage (First Edition), Juli 2007, 300 pp. Norman Ali Khalaf, Rilchingen-Hanweiler, Deutschland & Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. (in Arabic, German and English). www.geocities.com/jaffacity/Felidae_Arabica.html
Khalaf-Sakerfalke von Jaffa, Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Bassam Ali Taher (2008). The Story of Sabrina, the Gaza Zoo Lioness. Gazelle: The Palestinian Biological Bulletin. Number 73, January 2008. pp. 1-20. Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.  http://www.geocities.com/jaffacity/Gaza_Lioness_Sabrina.html
Khalaf-Sakerfalke von Jaffa, Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Bassam Ali Taher (Text) and Nora Norman Ali Bassam Khalaf (Drawings) (2008). Qisset Al-LabuÂ’a Sabrina fi Hadiqet Haywanat Ghaza (The Story of Sabrina, the Gaza Zoo Lioness). Gazelle: The Palestinian Biological Bulletin. Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. (Story in Arabic).  http://khalaf.homepage24.de/The%20Story%20of%20Sabrina,%20the%20Gaza%20Zoo%20Lioness
Khalaf-Sakerfalke von Jaffa, Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Bassam Ali Taher (Text) and Nora Norman Ali Bassam Khalaf (Drawings) (2008). Qisset Al-LabuÂ’a Sabrina fi Hadiqet Haywanat Ghaza / The Story of Sabrina, the Gaza Zoo Lioness. First Edition. Dr. Norman Ali Khalaf-von Jaffa, Rilchingen-Hanweiler, Germany & Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. (Publication in Summer 2008, in Arabic and English). ISBN 978-9948-03-603-6. English article Website:  http://www.geocities.com/jaffacity/Gaza_Lioness_Sabrina.html & Arabic Story Website: http://khalaf.homepage24.de/The%20Story%20of%20Sabrina,%20the%20Gaza%20Zoo%20Lioness
Khalaf-Sakerfalke von Jaffa, Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Bassam Ali Taher (2008). The Zanzibar Leopard (Panthera pardus adersi, Pocock 1932). Gazelle: The Palestinian Biological Bulletin. Number 74, February 2008. pp. 1-13. Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. http://www.geocities.com/jaffacity/Zanzibar_Leopard.html
Khalaf-Sakerfalke von Jaffa, Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Bassam Ali Taher (2008). Nimer Zanjibar (Zanzibar Leopard). Wikipedia, Al-Mawsu'a Al-Hurra (The Free Encyclopedia). Gazelle: The Palestinian Biological Bulletin. Number 74, February 2008. Page 14. Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. (Article in Arabic).
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Author & Webmaster: Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Bassam Ali Taher Khalaf-Sakerfalke von Jaffa. (2008).