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The Zanzibar Leopard (Panthera pardus adersi) is an elusive and possibly extinct subspecies of leopard endemic to Unguja Island in the

Zanzibar

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 program in the mid-1990s were shelved when wildlife researchers concluded that there was little prospect for the animal's long-term survival.

Rural Zanzibaris’ descriptions of the leopard and its habits are characterized by the widespread belief that a large number of these carnivores are kept by witches and sent by them to harm or otherwise harass villagers. 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” was to bring them to the brink of extinction.

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