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Conservation section

Commission for Natural Resources,

A Leopard in Jeopardy:
An anthropological survey of practices and beliefs which threaten
the survival of the Zanzibar leopard (Panthera pardus adersi)

Dr. Helle V. Goldman
Dr. Martin T. Walsh


Forestry Technical Paper No. 63

A study funded and supported by:
Jozani-Chwaka Bay Conservation Project,
Commission for Natural Resources,
Zanzibar, Tanzania

The following report presents the findings of a study on the Zanzibar leopard
undertaken in the first three weeks of July 1996. This work was contracted by the
Jozani-Chwaka Bay Conservation Project (JCBCP), a partnership between the
Government of Zanzibar and CARE Tanzania, and funded by the Government of
Austria. Provisional results were proffered in a verbal presentation given in the
Forestry Sector (FS) of the Commission for Natural Resources (CNR) on Friday 19
July 1996, and in an end-of-fieldwork summary report (Walsh 1996) which was
produced shortly afterward.
The research team comprised four persons: Dr. Martin T. Walsh (consultant
anthropologist and team leader), Dr. Helle V. Goldman (anthropologist, technical
advisor JCBCP), Ali Ali Mwinyi (Wildlife Officer, FS), and Suleiman Iddi Hamadi
(former Secretary and current Assistant Secretary of the Wasasi wa Kitaifa, or
National Hunters). The research undertaken by the team included the following
principal components; a) review of pertinent literature and documentation,
including official files, both current and in the Zanzibar National Archives; b) formal
and informal meetings with resource persons in Zanzibar town, including
representatives of relevant government institutions; and c) interviews and
discussions with individual Zanzibaris, including past and present hunters, and a
cross-section of villagers an townspeople, both men and women. A large part of the
study was devoted to semi-structured interviews with hunters in villages
throughout Zanzibar. Fieldwork during the second week was facilitated by the
division of the team into two pairs (MTW/SIH and HVG/AAM) who worked
independently in different locations.
Fieldwork has continued, on a sporadic basis, by Goldman up to the
completion of this paper (March 1997).
The research team consisted of four people; this report was jointly written by
Walsh and Goldman. The tireless assistance of Mwinyi and Hamadi are gratefully
acknowledged, and we also thank other staff at the CNR, JCBCP, and other
government organs who helped in various ways.
Executive summary

A Leopard in Jeopardy

1. The status of the Zanzibar leopard
The Zanzibar leopard is a little known and possibly endemic subspecies found on
Unguja Island, Zanzibar.

2. Current distribution
The current status of the Zanzibar leopard is controversial. Some authorities claim
that it is extinct. However, on the basis of recent interviews with a wide array of
informants and the examination of hunting records, this study suggests that though
on the brink of extinction, a small population of leopards remains extant.

3. Legalities
Laws imposed during the British colonial era offered leopards and other wildlife
some measure of protection. Though such legislation has never been explicitly
contravened during post-colonial decades, the government of Zanzibar has
encouraged the extermination of the Zanzibar leopard, because it is defined as
"vermin" and because of its association with witchcraft.

4. Leopard-keeping and witchcraft
It is a pervasive Zanzibari belief that some leopards are kept by witches, often
organised into "clubs," who magically control the leopards and use them to carry out
evil errands. Motivations for leopard keeping by witches include:
• to terrorise others, chiefly in order to gain "respect"
• to get chickens, goats, and other foods
• to guard wealth
• to profit from stud fees and the sale of cubs

The beliefs that kept leopards are magically protected and that leopard-keepers
retaliate against leopard hunters seems to have prevented some hunters from killing
leopards; at the very least it has resulted in an under-reporting of leopard killings.

Leopards are associated with some "sacred sites," another aspect of the role of
leopards in the local belief system.

The authors argue that there is no real evidence for leopard keeping. We maintain
that leopards cannot be controlled through magical means.

5. Other reasons for killing leopards
Though there is some fear of retaliation by leopard keepers, Zanzibari hunters do kill
leopards, mainly to profit from the sale of skins and other leopard parts.

6. Leopard hunting
Leopards were hunted throughout the colonial period, but it was with the Kitanzi
campaign of the mid- to late 1960's that leopard numbers were seriously diminished
as a result of hunting.

Leopards are currently hunted by these groups, among which there is some conflict:
• National Hunters, who are supported by the government of Zanzibar in an
effort to wipe out "vermin" and who also hunt for pleasure
• Village Hunters, who are based in rural communities and who also seek to
rid the countryside of dangerous animals and agricultural pests
• individual village-based hunters, who supplement their incomes through
the sale of meat and animal parts
• private town-based hunters, who hunt for profit and sport

7. Leopard conservation?
The authors argue that more research and a conservation program are urgently
required in order to stave off the imminent extermination of the Zanzibar leopard.
Though there are numerous obstacles to leopard conservation, we discuss potential
avenues through which it can be demonstrated that leopard conservation is in the
best interests of the people of Zanzibar:
• international conservation organisations promote the protection of
leopards worldwide
• the Zanzibar leopard may prove to be a distinct subspecies and is therefore
important in terms of global biodiversity
• leopards are associated with "sacred sites" in Zanzibar
• the leopard is known locally as "king"
• Zanzibaris are increasingly aware that conservation attracts tourists

Appendix A: Recent evidence for the presence of leopards
Reports of sightings, killings, and other evidence of leopards are presented in table
form. These data, albeit sometimes of dubious validity, suggest that leopards
remain in Zanzibar and that they are concentrated in the east-central and southern
regions of the island.

Appendix B: Statistics of leopards killed
Data culled from various documents are presented in table form, offering further
evidence for a continuing leopard presence and suggesting that National Hunters
have made a significant dent in the leopard population.

Appendix C: Leopard classification and linguistics
Leopards are known by a variety of terms in Zanzibar. The meaning and etymology
of leopard terminology are discussed in detail.


Preface page ii

Executive summary iii

A leopard in jeopardy 1
1. The status of the Zanzibar leopard 1
2. Current distribution 1
3. Legalities 4
4. Leopard keeping and witchcraft 5
4.1 Leopard clubs 6
4.2 Why witches keep leopards 7
4.2.1 To terrorise others 7
4.2.2 Other reasons witches keep leopards 9
4.3 Fear and consequences of killing leopards 10
4.4 Leopards and "sacred sites" 12
4.5 Are there really kept leopards and leopard keepers? 13
5. Other reasons for killing leopards 15
6. Leopard hunting 16
6.1 Colonial period 16
6.2 Kitanzi campaign 17
6.3 National Hunters 17
6.4 Village Hunters 20
6.5 Individual village-based hunters 21
6.6 Private town-based hunters 21
7. Leopard conservation? 21

Appendix A: Recent evidence for the presence of leopards 24

Appendix B: Statistics of leopards killed 31

Appendix C: Leopard classification and linguistics 37
1. Introduction 37
2. Glossary of named varieties 39
3. Glossary of euphemisms and other expressions 50

Figures 55

Literature cited 56

A Leopard in Jeopardy

1. The status of the Zanzibar leopard

Woefully little is known about the Zanzibar leopard; indeed, its very existence is a
question subject to controversy. Evidence for the animal's continued existence is
limited to (primarily) second-hand reports of sightings, the occasional pugmark or
scat, and the periodic appearance of leopard skins offered for sale to tourists and
others. Though many Zanzibaris claim that numerous leopards are kept in captivity
by evil-doers, this practice has not been confirmed and no such leopard has been
examined by qualified experts or disinterested persons.
Though some are skeptical of the current persistence of the felid, there is no
doubt that leopards were found on Unguja island during the first half of this
century. Four skins documented to have come from Zanzibar are housed in
museums, including two in the British Museum (one, taken by Aders, constitutes the
"type" specimen), one in Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology (a photograph
of which appears in Pakenham [1984]), and a mounted specimen in the Zanzibar
Museum of Natural History (figures 4-6).
Unguja is a continental island, separated from the mainland when sea levels
rose at the end of the last ice age some 10-15,000 years ago. A number of the island's
mammalian fauna are endemic subspecies as a result this isolation. Apparent
morphological differences (its small size and distinctive coat pattern; figures 3-9)
have led some authorities to treat the Zanzibar leopard as a separate subspecies,
Panthera pardus adersi: Pocock (1932), Pakenham (1947), Swinnerton and Hayman
(1951), and, more latterly, Kingdon (1977, 1989) and Alden et al (1995). A recent
study of molecular genetic variation among leopards (Miththapala et al 1996) did not
include an evaluation of the Zanzibar leopard due a dearth of appropriate samples.
It is of interest to note that though Miththapala et al argue for the reevaluation of
leopard subspecies from some 27 currently used trinomial designations to a mere
six, both island populations (Sri Lankan and Javan) examined in the study were
found to constitute phylogenetically distinct groups. Future research on the
Zanzibar leopard may well add a seventh subspecies to the list.

2. Current distribution

Several sources list the Zanzibar leopard as extinct or likely to have been extirpated
(Hes 1991; Miththapala et al 1996; Nowell and Jackson 1996). On the basis of our
fieldwork, however, we believe that this is not yet the case. Research into the
question of the persistence of the Zanzibar leopard is severely hampered by the
felid's association with witchcraft, rendering many of those who may have
encountered leopards in recent times reluctant to reveal such information. For many
Zanzibaris, merely to mention a leopard sighting, much less details regarding the
animal's appearance, precise whereabouts, and so on, bodes ill. Compounding this

difficulty, there is the opposite tendency among some informants toward boastful
exaggeration in order to secure the researcher's continuing attention and perhaps to
enhance prestige among other Zanzibaris present. Finally, lack of knowledge about
the island's wildlife, which has become increasingly scarce over the last decades,
may lead other informants to identify inaccurately the animals they fleetingly
observe. Knowledgeable informants warned us to take some reported sightings with
a grain of salt since a small or immature Zanzibar leopard can be confused with
Unguja's second largest wild carnivore, the African civet. Even experienced hunters
admitted to having mistaken leopards for antelopes—by the light of a headlamp
their reflective eyes are similar heights above the ground—so presumably antelopes
have been mistaken for leopards on occasion. Of the research team, only one (SIH)
has seen (and killed) a leopard for himself. Another (HVG) visited several caves in
heavily thicketed areas called Migombani and Kiwandani (east of Kitogani and near
Mtule) that were believed by local informants to have been regularly inhabited by
leopards. The "evidence" is thus preponderously indirect and anectodal.
Having registered these caveats, we nonetheless argue that there have been
enough reliable sightings by knowledgeable Zanzibaris to demonstrate that the
leopard continues to exist on Unguja. Map 1, covering the period 1990-96,
summarises the results of our research, as well as studies by others (Archer 1994;
Marshall 1994; Selkow 1995). (For details, see Appendices A and B.) The reader can
assess the quality of the evidence for himself. However, if one conservatively
discounts sightings of leopards, sightings of pugmarks and scat (by both Zanzibaris
and foreigners), and reports of attacks on domestic animals, it is clear that even on
the basis of documented leopard kills (Appendix B) alone, leopards inhabited
Unguja up to 1995. If leopards are indeed extinct, they were wiped out only a year
or two ago. It seems reasonable, however, not to dismiss all reports of recent
sightings and attacks, and therefore to conclude that leopards have not yet been
extirpated in Zanzibar.
Though reports of leopard sightings span the years 1990 to 1996 along the
north-eastern coast of the island (Nungwi south to Chwaka), leopards appear to be
concentrated in the central-western, and southern regions of Unguja. These areas
are also the most heavily forested with natural vegetation (i.e., not plantations of
imported tree species such as coconut and clove) and harbour the densest
populations of antelope and monkeys (Williams et al 1996; Othman and Goldman
1996). The highest concentration of leopards appears to be in the vicinity of the
Jozani Forest Reserve, including Charawe, Unguja Ukuu, Pete, Jozani, Kitogani,
Muungoni, Mtule, and Ukongoroni. In Pete, for example, separate sightings were
reported six times, by different informants over the course of several months in 1996.
There is a compelling internal consistency to these reports from the Pete area: in
June, a female leopard was seen at Kichanga; in September, an adult leopard was
seen near Kichanga (southern Pete, near the mangrove swamp); in October a female
leopard and two cubs were seen near Kilimani Latusi (by the main road and adjacent
to Jozani Forest); during November an adult was spotted on four separate occasions
in various places around Pete; and in late November a foreigner carrying out a study
of red colobus monkeys found two pugmarks near Kichanga, apparently an

adult leopard and an immature one. It seems fairly certain then, that a female
leopard inhabits the Pete area, which is almost completely surrounded by forest and
"coral rag" thicket. If the reported sightings are accurate, this female produced a
litter of young in mid-1996, but only one survived to the end of the year.
Whether this leopard is the same one that has been seen in the forest and
thickets near Jozani village, or even Kitogani, cannot be known. Because we know
virtually nothing of the ranging patterns of Zanzibar leopards, it is imprudent to
attempt population estimates by simply tallying up all sightings in different areas: a
single leopard may range across a very large area in search of prey and suitable
denning sites; two or more leopards may occupy overlapping home ranges. Bailey
(1993) has shown for leopards in Kruger National Park that home range sizes vary
markedly across habitats of differing quality and also that home ranges overlap to a
considerable degree. Furthermore, without evidence of leopard feeding habits, prey
densities (a key factor in assessing habitat quality) cannot be used as the basis of
estimating home range sizes. Until more is known about these and related aspects of
leopard behaviour in Zanzibar, a firm estimate of the population cannot be
However, it is safe to say that the leopard population has declined
precipitously over the course of the last two or three decades as a result of habitat
destruction and hunting. Numerous informants related how leopards have been
reduced in number, how some twenty or thirty years ago it was not safe to travel at
night in a certain area, or that leopard calls were once heard regularly in the forest,
but are no longer. Given Unguja's small size, the island may never have supported a
very large number of leopards even before it was inhabited by people. In fact,
something just above the minimum viable population for the species may have been
the most Unguja ever supported. After humans immigrated to the island, small
reductions, as a result of forest-clearing for cultivation, firewood, and settlement,
were apparently tolerated by the leopard population. But much heavier pressure, as
appears to have occurred since the 1960's as a result of a population explosion and
concerted efforts to eliminate the leopard, cannot be withstood indefinitely. Though
we can offer no hard numbers, it is our contention that the leopard population in
Unguja has probably already dropped well below its ability to sustain itself in the
long term without active efforts on our part to conserve it.

3. Legalities

British colonial authorities recognised at an early stage that the Zanzibar leopard
was vulnerable. In 1919 it was placed on the Wild Animals Protection Decree (CAP.
128 of 1919), a schedule of animals—mainly endemic species and subspecies—whose
killing and utilisation was prohibited without explicit permission. Possession of
leopard skins and other parts was also proscribed. With this measure of protection,
leopards appear to have thrived, especially in the coral rag forests and thickets on
the north, east, and south of the island. As the human population grew and the
farming frontier expanded, attacks upon people and domestic stock increased in
frequency. In 1950 the government bowed to popular pressure and removed the
Zanzibar leopard from the protected list by issuing the Zanzibar Leopard Exception

Order (G.N. 30 of 1950). The Exception Order included provisions that leopards
could not be killed with the aid of head lamps. However, according to our
information, many leopards continue to be hunted in this way.
In the aftermath of the Zanzibar Revolution of 1964 this and other provisions
of the Protection Decree and Exception Order were generally either forgotten or
ignored. The culling of leopards began in earnest shortly after the revolution when
the Revolutionary Government sponsored the leopard-killing and witch-finding
campaign of Kitanzi (see section 6.2, below). The government of Zanzibar has
sanctioned leopard hunting in another way, by subsidising the National Hunters
who are, in some ways, the heirs of Kitanzi (see section 6.3, below).
Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous state within the nation of Tanzania, is not party
to the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and
Flora (CITES), in which the leopard is listed in Appendix I,1 although Tanzania is
party to CITES-endorsed hunting quotas for leopards and other endangered or
vulnerable species. Since the hasty cobbling together of the newly independent
nations of Tanganyika and Zanzibar in 1964, Zanzibar's status vis-à-vis the Union
Government has remained ambiguous and Zanzibar continues to test the as yet
undefined limits of its autonomy. Whether Zanzibar is technically a party to
Tanzania's CITES or other international wildlife conservation agreements will not be
clarified until the question is raised, at the risk of stirring up once again the
controversial issue of Zanzibari autonomy.
The legal situation in Zanzibar is thus rather muddled in two respects. First,
British colonial laws remain "on the books" and have never been contravened by
post-Independence laws; yet the government continues to sanction leopard killing
by National Hunters and imposes no restrictions whatever on the hunting of
leopards by village and individual hunters. Second, though part of Tanzania,
Zanzibar has never participated in any international agreements regarding wildlife
protection. Indeed, knowledge of such agreements is scarce among Zanzibari

4. Leopard keeping and witchcraft

Early in 1921, a leopard made its appearance in my district,
and in a few nights accounted for eighteen goats. I went out
to try and get it, and sat up all night for in a tree over a kill,
but it was of no use, and the [Zanzibaris]... said I might have
saved myself the trouble, as an Mchawi had fuga-ed (tamed)
the leopard and it would go where he told it. [Ingrams

1 CITES is a treaty which regulates and restricts trade in wildlife. Its signatory nations now number
122. Appendix I includes: "all species threatened with extinction which are or may be affected by
trade. Trade in specimens of these species must be subject to particularly strict regulation in order
not to endanger further their survival and must only be authorised in exceptional circumstances"
(Nowell and Jackson 1996:221).

It is generally believed that though some leopards are completely wild animals
which diligently avoid people, other leopards are "kept" by certain nefarious
individuals. Informants suggest various proportions of wild to kept leopards, but
agree that wild leopards can become kept leopards—when leopard keepers gain
control over them through the use of magic—and kept leopards can become feral—
when a leopard keeper dies without transferring his leopard to another keeper and
the animal simply returns to the forest.
A "leopard keeper" (mfugaji, mfuga chui, mwenye chui), who may be female but
is likelier a man, either inherits his leopard from an elder relative, is given or sold the
leopard by a friend, kinsman, or more distant associate, or habituates a wild
leopard. Wild leopards (i.e., those without owners) are habituated by leaving out
food to which has been added magic/medicine (dawa). According to one informant,
a novice acquires co-ownership of a leopard in this way: enlisting the aid of an
experienced leopard keeper, the would-be leopard owner goes with his friend out
into the forest, where the keeper summons his leopard. The owner's assurances
overcome the leopard's reluctance to draw near a stranger and over the course of
several days the animal is habituated to the new person. Finally, the owner
commands the leopard to obey his new associate and the leopard's tail waves to
show its consent. The novice is now a co-owner of a leopard.

4.1 Leopard clubs
It is believed that a single leopard is commonly shared by several keepers, who may
or may not be related and who may or may not reside in the same community. For
example, though it is said that there are no leopards on Tumbatu Island, lying off the
northwest shore of Unguja, it is also believed that some Tumbatu people may have
"shares" in leopards on the main island. The notion of leopard-keeping "clubs"
(vyama) is consistent with the more general Zanzibari belief (held even in Pemba
Island, where there are no leopards) that witches are highly social, if amoral, beings
organised into cohesive guilds with particular initiation processes, membership
rules, headquarters (invisible to the uninitiated), hierarchies, group activities, and so
forth (Goldman 1996). Apropos of this, it is interesting to note that some informants
likened leopards themselves to witches in that, for example, they can become
invisible, and that leopard keepers are said to keep leopards as other witches keep
spirits (majini, pepo, masheitani).
Leopards are more commonly kept by groups of people, rather than
individuals, as a way of protecting the owners from retribution. If a person believes
that he has been the victim of witchcraft, including harassment by a kept leopard, he
may announce that he will read a curse (halbadhiri) that will doom the perpetrator,
e.g., leopard possessor, to death.2 In such cases, a single leopard owner will receive
the full measure of the curse. However, a group of leopard keepers can shift their
shared animal from owner to owner, and village to village, thereby outmaneuvering
or outwitting the curse so that it fails to find its target. It can readily be seen how
this serves to explain why, in some instances, after an incident of harassment by a

2 See also Ingrams (1931:472).

leopard and a subsequent recitation of the curse no likely candidate in a circle of
neighbouring community falls fatally ill immediately afterward.
Leopard keepers exercise control over their animals through the regular
supply of magically doctored food to them. Several informants claim to have spied
leopard keepers provisioning leopards at some isolated spot in the bush. Kept
leopards may reside in the bush, in which case they are summoned by their owners
who knock sticks against stumps or other objects. This activity is another which
informants claim to have seen and, along with food provisioning, is commonly cited
as evidence for the practice of leopard keeping.
Other leopards are thought to reside in their keepers' homes, usually in a
special room and often under a bed. According to some informants, the sight of a
leopard entering a home or disappearing in the immediate vicinity of a house is not
uncommon and constitutes clear evidence of leopard keeping.
The translocation of kept leopards, as when an owner inhabiting one village
"lends" the leopard to a co-owner residing elsewhere, is effected through the
transference of small charm (pingu). Third parties are sometimes unwittingly
Aside from the use of doctored food and such charms, the precise
mechanisms through which kept leopards are supposed to be controlled—e.g., sent
by their owners to harm particular people at particular places—remain
unelaborated. However, kept leopards are often adorned with anklets, ear-rings,
collars, and even women's cloth wraps, and this may play some role in their

4.2 Why witches keep leopards
Kept leopards are deployed by their owners to achieve a number of objectives: to
terrorise people; to obtain food for the owner; to guard wealth; to guard livestock;
and to breed so that the offspring may be sold for profit.

4.2.1 To terrorise others
Leopard keepers, like the witches (wachawi) among whom they are commonly
classed, are inherently evil persons who derive pleasure from causing others anguish
and pain. This sense of pleasure is apparently magnified when the leopard keeper,
through the shrewd guesses of his co-villagers (perhaps aided by divination) and
through the thinly veiled hints dropped by the keeper himself, is widely suspected
of owning a leopard. Hence, informants almost unanimously stated that the prime
motivation for keeping leopards is to scare (kuwatisha watu, kuwaogopesha watu) or

3 An informant in Paje related the following story: In Makunduchi, a child was asked by her
grandfather to fetch a small package from a man in Jambiani. Unbeknownst to her, the package
contained an object that attracted the leopard and compelled it to walk parallel to her, albeit
concealed in the thicket. When the girl shifted her tiny parcel from the right side of her cloth wrap to
the left, the leopard crossed the road in front of her, continuing to follow alongside her (but in the
bush) until she reached her elder. When she arrived, she told her grandfather that she had been
frightened by a leopard on her journey. The child fell ill shortly afterward, on account of having
mentioned what she had seen.

harass people (kuwasumbua watu, kuwakera watu) and, significantly, to enjoy some
measure of implicit recognition for this.
A contradiction manifests itself here. Leopard keepers are putatively proud
of the damage they do, like to be feared by family and neighbours, and therefore
enjoy reputations as "great/powerful people" (wakubwa) or even "kings" (wafalme), as
leopards themselves are known. At the same time, however, leopard keepers are
said to be extremely secretive, wishing to conceal their activities so that they will not
be punished via a curse or other sort of retribution (such as, during the Kitanzi
campaign, arrest and imprisonment). It is interesting to note here that informants
who claimed to have no knowledge whatever of leopards (such as their appearance
and behaviour) were as likely to be identified as leopard keepers by others as those
informants who related some information about leopards or leopard keeping. In the
first instance, it was said to be a matter of the keeper/informant wishing to conceal
his evil activities, and in the second a matter of the keeper/informant aiming subtly
to imply that he was himself a keeper. In short, both reticence and garrulity are
construed as evidence of leopard keeping. It should be stressed that no informant
actually came out and admitted that he was a leopard keeper to the researchers.
Rather, such information was gathered from others in private, out of the hearing of
the reputed keeper. Out of fear, only in the rarest circumstances do people directly
accuse others of leopard keeping; likewise, it appears that open admissions are quite
Harassment by kept leopards can take several forms, ranging from the animal
simply allowing itself to be seen at a distance, to entering a village, mauling
livestock, and savaging human beings. The object of harassment may be a single
individual, a family, or an entire community. One informant explained that because
an individual is embedded within a community, a leopard keeper cannot harass one
person without frightening great numbers of others. Indeed, he continued, there
have been cases of entire villages being abandoned as a result of particularly
harrowing bouts of leopard harassment.
Informants related numerous instances of leopard sightings, attacks on
livestock, and attacks on people (see Appendix A for most recent instances). People
were reported to have been killed by leopards in Jambiani, Uroa, and Ndudu.
Indeed, one among our informants was a man who, as a boy of perhaps five or six
was dragged by a leopard from the flimsy shack in which he was sleeping. Scars on
his leg and the back of his head serve as constant reminders of how dangerous
leopards are.4 Leopard attacks on cattle were reported in Nungwi, Chwaka, and
Unguja Ukuu. Chickens and guinea fowl were reported killed by leopards in

4 This man lives in Uroa. His story was confirmed by others in the village and many details added
by his mother. The child's wounds were treated at hospital, but after returning home he began to
vomit up leopard hairs. The attack was diagnosed by a diviner/traditional healer (mganga) at
Bwejuu as case of bewitchment involving the boy's natural father who, never married to the child's
mother, was bitter about having no legal rights to his biological son. The motive for the man's
sending his leopard to harm the boy was essentially: "since I can't have him, no one can." The boy
received a course of treatment from the healer, including small cuts in his skin into which
medicine/magic (dawa) was rubbed (this would protect him from further leopard attacks), and he
soon recuperated fully. A curse was recited. The boy's natural father died soon after.

Chwaka and Paje. Most of these events appear to have occurred during colonial
times, more than thirty years before the present, but the cow mauling in Nungwi
occurred in 1989 or 1990 and three goats were killed in Chwaka5 just a few months
before our field visit (1996).
It is widely believed that the mere sighting of a leopard causes the observer to
become instantly ill and a particularly close encounter will result in leopard hairs
appearing in the victim's vomit or faeces. In one case we heard of, when a man tried
to drive a leopard off his cow by hitting him, his arm became paralysed and has
remained so ever since. The only remedy for afflictions of this sort are traditional
means of curing which typically involve divination in order to determine the source
of the evil. Divination is not always necessary however: it is believed that after
someone has seen a leopard, its keeper usually visits the victim the following day,
greeting him effusively and enquiring solicitously about his health and welfare.
Such conduct—what an outsider might consider part and parcel of normal Zanzibari
social behaviour—is considered a flimsily disguised menace that serves to inform
the victim that his outwardly amiable interlocutor was the person responsible for the
leopard encounter and that it would behoove the victim not to cross the keeper again
in any way.
Although currently the practice of deploying leopards to terrify people has
entirely ill effects on the community at large, it formerly had more positive social
consequences according to some informants. Leopard keeping is said to have once
remained strictly in the hands elders who used their leopards to enforce proper
behaviour by punishing the disrespectful, especially misbehaving youths. Thus an
elder exercised his responsibilities as moral guardian of his community by punishing
(kumtia adhabu) the miscreant and enforcing respectful conduct from him
(kumheshimika). At the same time, the elder enhanced his own status as a powerful
person. His wish to instill fear seemed to have both selfish and selfless motives, but
these were compatible with one another. It should be noted that in Zanzibar the
notion of "respect" (heshima) is intimately bound up with fear since a highly
respected person is a powerful person and therefore also somewhat dangerous:
elders, who once controlled access to cultivable land and housing sites and who
arranged marriages, were respected because they could punish their juniors by
withholding key resources. In this light, it makes sense that older people are more
commonly believed to be witches. Their age, experience, and numerous social
connections empower them, and this is sometimes manifested through witchcraft.
As elsewhere, power is morally ambiguous in Zanzibar and people are profoundly
ambivalent about those who dominate them.
It is described as a sad change that elders inexorably lost their monopoly on
leopard keeping. Younger, more essentially self-interested people became involved
as traditional patterns of authority and systems of social control eroded.

4.2.2 Other reasons witches keep leopards
Though leopard keeping may have once played a role in sanctioning immoral
conduct, it is believed that current motivations for keeping leopards are limited to

5 The informant claimed that the goats were discovered with their hearts and livers torn out.

terrorizing others (for self-interest only), obtaining food, guarding wealth, and
earning money through the sale of cubs. Having already discussed at some length
what may be called the "terror motivation," we move on to the rest.
Kept leopards are said to go out and kill fowl or livestock and bring these
prized food items back to their owners. This is fairly straightforward and little need
be added here except to point out how this belief serves to explain why leopards
sometimes attack domestic animals.
It is also said that kept leopards guard their owners' wealth, typically by
residing in a room in which valuables are stored. One among our informants6
claimed that he himself, as a boy, had met a leopard in the home of his guardian's
parents. It was quite tame and allowed the child to stroke it. According to the man,
this leopard was jointly owned by several people in the village, who sent the animal
back and forth among them. Some say that leopards are kept even in the main town,
where wealthy urbanites use them to protect their money and jewels. At night, the
leopards are released to search for food or to harass people.
In the countryside, kept leopards are believed to guard their owners'
livestock. In the past, we were told, leopards even guarded cultivated fields,
protecting crops from marauding bush pigs and antelopes.
Finally, some entrepreneurial keepers breed their leopards in order to sell the
cubs to novice leopard keepers. Breeding itself is sometimes a risky endeavor; we
were told one story of a male leopard owned by a guild in Uzi. A club in Muyuni
wanted to breed their female with it, but before the pairing could take place, the Uzi
male was killed by hunters. The Muyuni people extracted a fine of 3,000/- (this was
quite a sum in about 1972) from the Uzi islanders for failing to protect their stud.

4.3 Fear and consequences of killing leopards
Due to their association with witchcraft and the threats they pose to life, limb, and
livestock, leopards are hated and feared by Zanzibaris. It is somewhat ironic that
this same association with witchcraft may have offered leopards some measure of
protection. More certainly, the fear of killing a kept leopard and consequent
retaliation by the animal's keeper has resulted in the under-reporting of leopard
In one case, a National Hunter reputedly shot a leopard7 and, perhaps
because word got round of what he had done, he has been "bleeding like a woman"
ever since that time. In another case,8 a leopard approached the shack in which a
married couple were staying while they cultivated their fields. The man grabbed his
gun, shot the animal, and took it to the police. The leopard's keeper soon learned of
what had happened and bewitched the man. He became quite ill and had to visit a
number of specialists before he finally recovered.9

6 In Unguja Ukuu, Kae Pwani.
7 In the forest near the coast at Mchangani, reported by an informant in Paje.
8 Reported by a woman in Kiwengwa.
9 Two other cases are pertinent. According to an informant from Dimani, during the Kitanzi
campaign a hunter tried to shoot a leopard, failed at the first two attempts, but succeeded on the third
try and the animal was struck dead. However, the hunter's gun barrel split during the event and the

Several hunters with whom we spoke related stories of having killed leopards
"by accident" and then, out of fear of discovery by leopard keepers, burying or
burning the carcases and hastening from the scene. In one case, our informant
revealed that whilst hunting alone one night about 30 years ago he killed a leopard
near Uzi. Afraid, he deposited it in a hole and burned it. Despite his precautions, he
became ill, his hands and feet partially paralysed. He only recovered after being
treated by a traditional healer.10 One of our informants, an elderly former Village
Hunter in Paje, admitted to having killed two leopards in his lifetime; he destroyed
both carcases and was glad that there had been no witness to the first killing and
only a small child to the second.11 This is one of the reasons why some hunters say
they prefer to hunt alone rather than in national or local hunting groups. It is said
that "there are secrets in the forest" (mwituni kuna siri), that is, what one does alone in
the forest is unlikely to become general knowledge. Some of the hunters we spoke
with claimed to have avoided killing leopards they encountered due to the
momentous perils involved.
Though some stated that a leopard owner need only touch the body of his
killed leopard and the hunter will rumble like a leopard or even die, other
informants emphasised instead that certain body parts must be removed. The larynx
(makoromo, koromeo) or the throat (koo), for example, must be excised lest the owner
discover the carcase and use the parts as the basis for a very powerful hex on the
leopard killer. In addition, a leopard killer sometimes removes such other parts as
the claws which can be employed to concoct a magical recipe that will protect him
from future leopard encounters. Such prophylactic measures are also applied to
livestock. Commonly used in hunting, dogs, too can be protected, so that leopards
attempting to defend themselves against the dogs find that their claws will not come
unsheathed. Apropos of this, Pakenham mentioned magic aimed at protecting
hunters and livestock in the Chwaka area (1947).
Finally, it should be noted here that kept leopards are themselves believed to
be protected by magic. A number of informants claimed that this magic causes
hunters' guns to jam, though others said this was not so. It is worth mentioning that
a great many guns currently employed in Zanzibar are quite old; some are made
locally, using hollow window bars as barrels. Malfunctions are probably fairly

hunter fell unconscious. He recovered three days later. Another time, a pig hunter killed a leopard at
night in Unguja Ukuu, thinking it was an antelope. The owner bewitched him so that whenever he
closed his eyes he saw a leopard. He visited many specialists, and was finally cured by one in Tanga,
on the mainland.
10 This man, from Unguja Ukuu, did not attempt to divine the identity of the leopard keeper and did
not perform the curse; it was enough that he recovered and he did not want to stir things up again.
11 The first killing took place shortly after Independence, perhaps 1966. The then sheha of Paje shot
a leopard and though it was badly wounded, it ran off. Some two or three months later, this leopard,
much diminished in strength, approached the informant's dwelling. His dogs set upon it and the
man dispatched it with his spear. Afraid that it might have been a kept leopard, he burned the
carcase and did not mention the matter. A few years afterward, he was hunting antelope and guinea
fowl the forest near Paje, accompanied by a small boy. Returning late in the evening, the light of his
head torch caught what he thought was an antelope. After shooting it, he saw that he had in fact
killed a leopard. He dug a hole and buried it.

4.4 Leopards and "sacred sites"
Compounding the complexity of the beliefs surrounding leopards, the association of
leopards with mizimu—commonly translated as "sacred sites"—demands attention,
for in this case the association is somewhat positive.
Mizimu (sing. mzimu) are locations where people petition God for assistance
in cases of illness, barrenness, poverty, or other forms of misfortune. These locations
are typically sited in the bush and may consist of a grave, a cave, a large or
unusually shaped tree, or some other distinctive feature of the landscape. They are
sometimes marked with stone cairns and small, rough hearths where incense (ubani)
has been burned. Shards of clay vessels, the remains of bowls in which traditional
rice dishes (wali) have been brought to the sites, are also sometimes found at these
places. Particular kinship groups (koo) are said to "own" (wanamiliki) particular
mizimu; they are described as the "owners" (wamiliki) of the place. Each site is
believed to be inhabited by spirits (masheitani) which have for generations been
associated with a particular kinship group. These spirits are of the type known as
"family" or "ancestral" spirits (masheitani wa jadi). They are "inherited" by the
members of subsequent generations, though they do not equally affect all family
members and they sometimes skip generations (see Goldman 1996).
When a person becomes ill, cannot find a spouse, watches his livestock die
one by one, or suffers some other kind of adversity, he (or she) consults a diviner
who may diagnose the misfortune as having resulted from the individual's neglect of
his family spirits and their mzimu. Many years may have elapsed since they were
last propitiated, and, angered, the spirits are vexing the individual to remind him of
his duties toward them. The individual then prepares a dish of rice boiled in
coconut milk and brings it to his mzimu, where, sometimes joined by some near
relatives, he consumes the rice, burns incense, and asks God to help him. At the
same time, of course, he is propitiating the spirits, although this aspect of the ritual
generally remains implicit only: to claim explicitly that one is asking spirits for
forgiveness and assistance makes many Muslims uneasy, though this is certainly the
core of mizimu rites. After he has finished, the individual leaves the bowl and some
food in it, and returns homeward.
Mizimu are protected areas; no one may cut the bush surrounding these sites
for approximately 100 metres in all directions. (Thus, one way of recognizing mizimu
is to look for high stands of old trees, perhaps surrounded by patches of cut thicket.)
It is believed that if one cuts trees near a mzimu, the illicit harvester will suffer,
perhaps by an attack of bees, an accident, or illness.12 Or, in some cases, he will
encounter a leopard.
Many mizimu are caves that have been formed through the leeching of
limestone in pockets of the fossil coral deposits that underlie the island's thin layer of
soil. Some of these caves are quite sizable. A number of mizimu caves in Kiwandani
and Magombani, heavily thicketed areas east of the village of Kitogani in south-

12 However, honey may be taken from these areas by anyone who wishes to do so and no special
permission is required. One of the caves mentioned here contained a ladder which had been
propped up against the cave wall to reach a beehive.

central Unguja, are believed by local informants to be inhabited, off and on, by
leopards. It can readily be apprehended how mizimu propitiation rites, which
include leaving food in caves occupied by leopards, is connected to beliefs
concerning leopard keeping.13 But it should be noted that our Kitogani informants
believed that the leopards in these caves are often wild ones. Apparently, not all
mizimu leopards are kept leopards, yet they are indirectly associated with particular
family groups through their association with those families' sacred sites. Moreover,
these leopards assist in the protection of these sites, by helping to scare off intruders.

4.5 Are there really kept leopards and leopard keepers?
Having found no evidence to the contrary (and at the risk of being accused of
unfashionable positivism), we take the view that the notion that witches employ
leopards to do their evil bidding must be placed alongside other widely believed but
scientifically unsubstantiated beliefs—such as the ideas that witches can turn
themselves into animals, can become invisible, and can fly. If scientifically
unfounded, these beliefs are profoundly interesting from a sociological perspective.
As with witchcraft and its associated ideas more generally, once a basic set of
assumptions about leopard keeping is accepted, then ideas concerning leopard
keeping are sustained by an unbreachable internal logic: all contingencies can be
explained and the basic assertions remain unchallenged.
For example, if one accepts (a) that leopard keepers retaliate against those
who harm their leopards and (b) that retaliation may not occur if the killer
successfully conceals his act (or removes certain body parts), then whether or not a
leopard killer falls ill, the belief system is sustained. If he remains healthy, then it
must be because he took proper precautions. If he sickens, it means that the leopard
keeper found out somehow (perhaps through supernatural means). Thus, the
leopard killer can remain well or fall ill; either outcome buttresses the belief system.
In some cases the "logic" is clearly circular. For example, Zanzibaris explain
that the difference between wild and kept leopards is that the former are exceedingly
farouche, avoiding human contact at all costs and having no taste for livestock, while
the latter harbour no fear of people and prefer to dine on human foods. Thus, any
leopard that is seen in the vicinity of a settlement is typically deemed a kept leopard,
and any leopard activity near a village is a form of diabolical harassment. One of the
researchers suggested that, under dire circumstances (e.g., gunshot injury, old age,
water shortage, absence of wild prey), a wild leopard might overcome its natural
fear of humans and their villages in order to obtain access to water or food. Villagers
claimed that this was quite impossible since only kept leopards come near people.
In other instances contrary evidence is simply ignored. For example, a
number of informants stated that the mere sight of a leopard, even at a distance,
causes the observer to become instantly ill. Several detailed stories were offered as
proof. On the other hand, plenty of our informants described having seen leopards
but failed to then mention that they fell ominously sick afterward.

13 Ingrams saw a dish containing the remains of food inside a cave at Kufile, in the southern part of
the island, and was told that the dish had been placed there by the leopard's owner (1931:471).

Having said that we do not believe that witches are magically manipulating
leopards, we must also add that it may well be that some Zanzibaris have wholly or
partly habituated wild leopards by feeding them in much the same way that red
colobus monkeys have become quite accustomed to human visitors in the vicinity of
Jozani Forest. There is nothing magical about this. Likewise, it is within the realm of
possibility that some people are actually breeding leopards, just as suni antelopes are
bred at Zala Animal Park, in Kitogani.14 However, it must be stressed that
habituating or possibly even breeding leopards is not what is meant, in Zanzibar, by
"leopard keeping" (kufuga chui). Rather, the phrase implies a supernatural
relationship between animal and malevolent owner, who is able to dispatch his
leopard to carry out various activities at his whim.
Furthermore, given the tendency of some people to relish a reputation for
being powerful—for being "respected"—it is conceivable that some individual
Zanzibaris have allowed the proliferation of rumours about themselves as
dangerous leopard keepers. Indeed, such a man or woman may even start this sort
of gossip himself, opportunistically taking advantage of a neighbour's chance
sighting of a leopard to raise himself up a notch in the local hierarchy of prestigious,
or feared, persons. Recall that a leopard keeper, like the leopard itself, is sometimes
refered to as a "king" (mfalme).
Finally, that some informants have deliberately misled researchers, both past
and present, cannot be ruled out entirely. The idea seems to have spread across the
island that foreign researchers are willing to pay quite a bit of money (the figure
cited is typically a neat 100,000 Tsh15) to catch sight of a (kept) leopard. Though
several people have pursued these offers, to our knowledge no such sighting has
ever been made by a foreigner.
As observed much earlier, Zanzibari ideas about leopard keeping cannot be
fully appreciated except within the greater context of a complex cosmology
concerning personhood, good and evil, and causes of misfortune. It is characteristic
of Zanzibar, as in other kinship-based societies, that misfortune (e.g., illness, injury,
loss of livestock) is generally interpreted within a socially relevant framework. That
is, misfortune is often attributed—directly or indirectly—to other people rather than
to chance and, in this case, to the natural and predictable behaviour patterns of
animals which have no objectively demonstrable connection to human society at all.
Thus, an illness that occurs after a leopard encounter is ascribed to a leopard keeper,
who is probably a neighbour and perhaps even a relative of the victim.16 The illness
(or attack, or loss of stock) then becomes comprehensible in light of animosities that
may have their roots in long-standing property conflicts, marital and paternity
disputes, and such basic human factors as jealousy, envy, and greed. In this way, the
unfortunate event acquires social meaning and can be acted upon through culturally
prescribed means such as divination, curses, and traditional methods of curing.

14 Leopards do breed fairly well in captivity under favourable conditions.
15 About 165 US$.
16 See the case of the boy who was attacked by a leopard supposedly sent by his own father, footnote

These modes of interpretation and resolution are changing in the face of
increasing urbanisation, tourism, commercialisation, and other linked trends which
result in smaller family units and independence from elders (and therefore less fear
of and respect for them). The interpretive framework that was so effective in the
rural regions of Unguja is gradually replaced by a more "modern" one that relies
more heavily on western scientific explanations. Though the change is far from
complete, it is significant that informants commonly explained that leopard keeping
is waning because the younger generation is no longer interested in learning
traditional practices from their elders. The reduction in leopard keeping and other
forms of witchcraft—antisocial practices—is linked to an ebbing interest in socially
approved traditional curing methods and other forms of indigenous knowledge.
And though the majority of informants stated quite clearly that they wish leopards
were entirely exterminated in Unguja, a few younger people considered that leopard
conservation might serve as a useful draw for the tourists who throng the island.

5. Other reasons for killing leopards

We have seen that the two main reasons for killing leopards—their association with
witches and their occasional attacks on people and livestock—are really one. The
leopard is at the same time "vermin" and an evil being. These reasons alone would
amply account for why the animals are killed, yet two other reasons merit attention:
the use of leopard parts in traditional curing practices and the sale of leopard skins.
As noted earlier, leopard parts serve as vital ingredients in anti-leopard
recipes. Besides this, leopard parts are also employed in the treatment of other
complaints. Claws, tufts of fur, and strips of skin all have a variety of medicinal uses
and are often kept by the hunter, given away to friends, or sold. Leopard parts are,
it is said, available in one of the town's specialty herbalists' shop, though they are
not offered for sale openly. However, it would appear that few if any leopards are
killed specifically to obtain such magico-medicinal ingredients. Rather, these parts
are probably taken opportunistically, while the leopards are killed for other reasons.
But hunting leopards in order to sell their skins is a motivation that surely
stands on its own given the large sums of money that are reputedly involved. One
quote we obtained was 30,000 Tsh (50 US$), which is nearly double the monthly
salary of a mid-level civil servant. During and for some years after the Kitanzi
campaign, leopard skins were delivered to the government, to be sold on what was
then an open market. At some point this system broke down, leaving no official
guidelines at all regarding the disposal of skins. The black market has filled this gap.
Though skins have been offered for sale to tourists in Zanzibar,17 after passing
through one or two middlemen (and rising in price accordingly), most skins are said
to wend their way to the Tanzanian mainland, en route, presumably to somewhere
else (the Gulf/Arabian Peninsula was suggested as one likely destination). The

17 For example, a skin was offered for sale to two South Africans visiting Paje in 1995. They declined
the offer. Another skin was brought to the Principal Curator of the Zanzibar National Museum in
December 1996. This too was refused.

Zanzibar end of this trade is evidently not very well organised—hunters may
sometimes wait for a month or longer before they can find a buyer—and this
probably reflects the fact that the local supply is very limited and many of the skins
of inferior quality and size to those which can be found on the mainland.
Nonetheless, this trade in skins gives hunters an important incentive to kill leopards:
some hunters earn most of their living from the sale of wildlife products, and
leopard skins are among the most highly prized of these.

6. Leopard hunting

Leopards are almost always killed by male hunters, usually hunting with dogs and
shotguns or, in some areas (for example, the far south) with spears. A number are
killed at night by hunters equipped, illegally, with head torches. Leopards are
actively sought out or killed when the opportunity presents itself on account of their
status as agricultural "vermin" (wanyama wa haribifu)—because they occasionally take
livestock—as well as their association with witchcraft. Sometimes, mistaken for
antelope or other animals, they are killed "accidentally."

6.1 Colonial period
Pakenham noted that the Zanzibar leopard "occasionally becomes a nuisance by
killing live-stock, although generally speaking he amply atones for such misdeeds by
subsisting on monkeys, dik-dik, and pig" (1947:31). This statement reflected the
general policy of the British government with respect to leopards. They appear not
have been ranked as "vermin"—as were vervet and Sykes' monkeys, suni antelope
("dik-dik"), bushpigs, crows, and rodents—and were therefore not subject to the
extermination campaigns that were aimed at eliminating these agricultural pests
from the islands (Pakenham 1947; see also Wilson 1940; Borsa 1987). Leopard
hunting was delimited by the various wildlife protection laws that the British
enacted, as described in an earlier section.
However, leopards were certainly killed during this period, both legally and
illegally. Pakenham (1984) includes a list, given to him by an Arab District
Commissioner, of 23 leopards known to have been killed between 1939 and 1943.18
These were, presumably, licit kills as were the leopard hunts that informants today
recall as having involved British and other European hunters. Informants remember
that they themselves were not permitted to hunt leopards, nor to carry fire-arms, but
were employed to assist in leopard hunts: the British took the leopards and the
Zanzibaris were allowed to take any other animal that was killed during the hunt
(excluding legally protected species). Of course, we have no way of knowing how
many leopards were taken illegally.
Whether the British enacted laws to "protect" the leopard in order to preserve
for themselves the sport of game hunting is a question that merits further
investigation, but cannot be answered here. As elsewhere in East Africa, definitions
of "poacher" and "hunter" typically broke down neatly along colour lines.

18 Two in the area of Mkokotoni; 2 in Dimani; 1 in Kikungwi; 1 in Kufile; 10 in Uroa; 1 in Mavuu
Makunduchi; 1 in Koani; 1 in Umbuji; 2 in Mtende; 1 in Fumba; and 1 in Muyuni.

6.2 Kitanzi campaign
Kitanzi, whose nickname comes from the word for "snare" and, by extension,
"dangerous person," was from Makunduchi, in the southernmost part of Unguja. In
about 1964, he emerged as a leader of a hunting group which specialised in
antelopes and, then, of a special leopard-hunting group. His reputation for being a
powerful hunter and magician grew. His precise status vis-à-vis the government is
unclear, but at some point in the mid-60's he was empowered to carry out a very
concentrated anti-leopard and anti-witch campaign. Traditional healers (waganga)
were also singled out for arrest. This campaign lasted into the early 1970's and was
focused in the south-central portion of the island.
During the campaign, Kitanzi apparently never hunted himself, but
dispensed magic (dawa) to others on the team so that they could "see" leopards and
catch their equally elusive owners; the consumption of leopards by some of Kitanzi's
hunters may have been part of this magical treatment. The success of the crusade
was perceived to lie largely in Kitanzi's own formidable powers as a witch who was
able to vanquish other witches. Leopards were sometimes trapped in baited wooden
cages19 and then stoned, clubbed, or speared to death. Some of our informants recall
seeing leopards for the first time under these circumstances.
One informant described how arrests of reputed leopard keepers took place:
Kitanzi's team would knock at the door of a supposed keeper and demand to see the
man's leopard. When the man vehemently denied that he had a leopard, he would
be arrested for noncompliance.20 The homes of suspected witches, leopard keepers,
and traditional health practitioners were typically torn apart in the search for
Kitanzi's campaign played a key role in hardening popular and official
attitudes towards leopards and in burying any vestigial recognition of the laws still
nominally in existence that protected leopards from indiscriminate killing. Not
surprisingly, there are no records from Kitanzi's days so we do not know how many
leopards were killed nor how many people were arrested. However, the Zanzibaris
with whom we spoke recall that leopards were markedly reduced after this
campaign, as was witchcraft and sorcery.21

6.3 The National Hunters
The National Hunters (Wasasi wa Kitaifa) is a nationally organised body of hunters
which has its origins in the colonial period. Though formed in the late 1950's, this
group became more active following independence when the Revolutionary
Government agreed to provide transport, fuel, and shotgun cartridges to the hunting
group.22 Concerned as they were with the extermination of agricultural vermin, the

19 Probably similar in design to that shown in the photograph in Pakenham (1947).
20 We were told that in one case, Kitanzi arranged the capture of a witch from Bumbwini, but when
the vehicle reached gaol the witch was no longer inside it.
21 A similar campaign, but one aimed not at leopards themselves but at witches and evil spirits, was
more recently carried out by Tokelo, from about 1990-92.
22 Note that the first chairman of the National Hunters was also on the Revolutionary Council.

National Hunters were then under the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and
Natural Resources. In 1986, it was switched from MALNR to the new Department of
Regional Administration. In the past, official hunts were also organised at lower
levels of the administrative hierarchy—there were Regional and District hunts—but
the former system has largely broken down, and only National Hunts are held with
any regularity.
Membership in the group is open to all Zanzibari hunters—no fees are
required—and many members also belong to Village Hunting groups (see below) or
hunt on an individual basis. Not all members participate in all hunts; "membership"
may also be very short term, perhaps confined to only a few hunts. Thus, a man
may identify himself as a Village Hunter on one occasion or as a National Hunter
another time, depending on the circumstances.
The National Hunters' official task is to carry out vermin control in the
countryside, sometimes following a written request for assistance from local leaders.
The hunts usually take place on Sundays (sometimes beginning Saturday evenings
and continuing through the night) at prearranged locations where the National
Hunters may also join up with Village Hunters. The explicit prime target of most of
these hunts are bushpigs, though they are sometimes organised against Sykes'
monkeys. Other animals, such as antelopes, vervet monkeys, civets, pythons,
mongooses, and leopards are also taken.23 While the explicit raison d'être of the
National Hunters is to assist rural Zanzibaris by reducing agricultural vermin,24
sport and financial gain from the sale of wildlife products are among the primary
motives of the varying number of individuals who take part in its activities. It is not
clear precisely what happens to the skins of leopards taken by National Hunters to
town, or who profits from the sale of these hides.
Steered by a committee that includes a chairman and secretary as well as
untitled hunters, the National Hunters are not tightly regulated by the government.
The government does not, for example, set the National Hunters hunting quotas or
attempt to verify the number of kills they report, nor the species that they report
having killed. The National Hunters are, however, required to keep records of their
activities in the form of individual hunt reports and annual summaries. Record
keeping among the National Hunters is spotty and a comparison of leopard kill
statistics from different National Hunt sources reveals inconsistencies and lacunae
(see Appendix B for references and details). For example, individual hunt reports
show that a total of 10 leopards were killed between 1983 and 1995, while the annual
summaries—purportedly compiled on the basis of the hunt reports—show a total of
57 for this same period. The National Hunters annual summaries also include some
data on Village Hunts, as reported to the National Hunters by leaders of the Village
Hunters, though this information too appears rather perfunctory (locations and

23 The sole animal which is not hunted is the endemic Zanzibar red colobus monkey, which is
actively protected in Zanzibar. There was an incident in 1996 during which a red colobus monkey
was killed during a National Hunt. This seems to have been accidental.
24 National Hunters documents, such as annual summaries and requests for fuel, typically include
such lines as Shime wasasi kufika kwa wingi usasi hizo ili kufanyikisha mtakula ("Come, let the hunters
number many in this campaign to achieve food self-sufficiency") and Shime tuwapige vita wanyama
waharibifu ("Come, let us wage war on vermin").

dates of kills are typically absent). One set of National Hunters documents that are
well-furnished is formal requests for cash advances or reimbursements to cover fuel
and cartridge expenses.
According to what statistics are available, National Hunters are responsible
for having killed more leopards than any other category of hunters (Table 1),
perhaps as many as 115 in the last decade (or, minimally, 92). This is almost twice as
many as Village Hunters reported having taken. Examining the records temporally
is also illuminating: the greatest numbers of leopards seem to have been hunted
from 1988 to 1994, when between 11 and 18 leopards were reported killed by
National or Village Hunters per annum. In the last two years, the number of
leopards reported killed by these organizations has plummeted. Though it is
tempting to attribute this to declining number of leopards, other factors must be
considered as well. For example, budget restraints have always been a problem for
the National Hunters but may be more pronounced now than in the past. Moreover,
it must be reiterated that record keeping is rather irregular: the low numbers for 1995
and 1996 are partly the result of inadequate documentation. Nonetheless, the
hypothesis that National Hunters are killing fewer leopards these days due to actual
reductions in the leopard population is backed up by National Hunters themselves
(SIH in particular), as well as by village informants, both hunters and others.

Table 1. Summary of leopards killed, compiled from National Hunters documents
(see Appendix B for references) and field interviews (see also Appendix A).

number of kills
year MAXI- combined MINI- combined
MUM Nat'l Village NH and MUM Nat'l Village NH and
Hunters Hunters Village other Hunters Hunters Village other
to mid- 4 4 3 3
1995 1 1 1 1
1994 13 12 1 12 11 1
1993 13 8 4 1 11 7 3 1
1992 12 6 6 9 5 4
1991 18 2 16 17 2 15
1990 12 5 7 10 3 7
1989 15 12 3 11 8 3
1988 11 11 2 2
1987 5 5 5 5
1986 4 4 4 4
1985 7 7 7 7
total 115 73 37 1 4 92 56 32 1 3

6.4 Village Hunters
Another important body of hunters is the Village Hunters (Wasasi wa Kona25). These
consist of groups of hunters affiliated with particular villages or clusters of
settlements. As most of them see it, the chief task of these hunters—most of whom
are also farmers—is to reduce agricultural vermin in their particular areas.
Nonetheless, the sale of wildlife products (especially the meat of mini-antelope)
provides some of these hunters with their principal source of income, though the
regularity and intensity with which they hunt varies. Village Hunts can take place
on any day, but are typically held on Thursdays. In a case of a Village Hunt and a
National Hunt being slated for the same day in the same area, the National Hunt
always takes precedence and the Village Hunt is postponed.
Several neighbouring groups of Village Hunters often band together and hunt
as large combined parties, usually with one village acting as host to two or three
others. Combined hunting parties of, say, five or six communities are known as
Wasasi wa Kona Kubwa. The role such combined hunts play in cementing cooperative
relations between villages, and the hitorical origins of these hunts, merit further
Village Hunters have also hunted with National Hunters but this is quite rare.
More commonly, some men are affiliated with both groups. But though ostensibly
united by the common goal of exterminating agricultural vermin and thereby
furthering the development of the farmer, National and Village Hunters (as well as
individual hunters; below) are also beset by conflicts of interests, at least according
to some Village Hunters. We were told that while Village Hunters (and individual
village-based hunters)—as farmers themselves—have vested interests in
exterminating vermin, National Hunters are a boisterous and raucous group of
primarily townsmen who are more interested in hunting for its entertainment value.
One elderly Village Hunter complained that National Hunters leave animal carcases
to rot in the fields where they have been shot, pull up cassava tubers and pick
oranges, papaya, and coconuts for on-the-spot snacks without asking cultivators'
permission, and generally disrupt village life.26
It must also be considered that as Zanzibar's wildlife ("vermin") decreases it
becomes, ironically, an increasingly scarce natural resource over which competition
emerges. For example, though antelope are considered vermin, their meat (priced
below beef) is in high demand especially during the feasts following Ramadhan.
Some village-based hunters have recognised that it is in their own best economic

25 Kona is a word of obscure etymological origin. One exegesis was suggested: that kona derives
from ukoo, the largest unit of traditional Zanzibari kinship groupings. If this is indeed correct, then
these hunters may have originally been organised on the basis of common kinship rather than
residence per se, though kinship and residence overlapped significantly since residence choices were
largely governed by, or rationalised in terms of, kinship.
26 This man, from Paje, also accused National Hunters of falsifying their records in order to account
for all spent shotgun cartridges while concealing red colobus kills and, during the antelope closed
hunting season, antelope kills. In February 1997, one of the authors (HVG) discovered National
Hunters hunting in a Forest Reserve (Unguja Ukuu), where hunting is prohibited. They were also
carrying shotguns, a hunting tool that was banned during that period—the newly implemented
closed antelope hunting season.

interests to ensure sustainable populations of antelope in their areas: their value as
game is beginning to outweigh their liability as crop-eaters. A similar trend may
influence leopard hunting. Some informants expressed irritation when telling of
private-town based hunters and National Hunters who hunt leopards in their
villages' forests and thickets without first asking the permission of local leaders.
Certain that these town-based hunters are profiting hugely from the sale of leopard
skins, these village residents resent their intrusion. These conflicts will surely be
exacerbated as more villagers adjudge the possibility that leopards and other
wildlife may represent attractions for tourists in years to come. Several informants,
mainly young men, expressed interest in capturing leopards in order to display them
to paying visitors. Though we do not consider this an appropriate conservation
measure, the significance of this idea as an indicator of profound changes in
attitudes toward wildlife cannot be overlooked.

6.5 Individual village-based hunters
Much of what has been said for Village Hunters applies to individual rural hunters,
who hunt by themselves, though a few additional remarks are warranted.
Some rural hunters prefer to hunt alone because they believe that single
hunters are usually more successful, on a per capita basis, than groups of hunters
who cannot avoid making noise, and therefore frightening off animals, as they move
through the bush. A few hunters claimed that they hunt alone because, as noted
earlier, "there are secrets in the forest," i.e., what one does kills in the bush can
remain his private business. This is, of course, particularly relevant to killing
It is also important to observe that individual rural hunters (like private town-
based hunters; see below) are under no requirement to report their kills. It is
therefore impossible to know what impact these hunters have, in comparison to
National and Village Hunters, on wildlife populations.

6.6 Private town-based hunters
There is one well-known group of private hunters based in Mlandege, Zanzibar
Town, who typically set up camp in favoured locations and hunt there for a number
of days. (Currently they use two camps regularly; they have been excluded from a
third site by local villagers.)27 This small group of hunters sometimes employs local
village hunters, and may also be joined from time to time (as in National Hunts) by
visiting sport hunters from Muscat or elsewhere in the Arabian Peninsula. As with
individual village-based hunters, we do not know how many leopards or other
animals private town-based hunters take.

7. Leopard conservation?

Though a census of Zanzibar leopards has never been undertaken, it is clear that
leopard numbers have decreased significantly in the last decades. The two main

27 It seems likely that hunters caught illegally hunting in the Jozani Forest Reserve in April 1997
included members of this group.

reasons for this decline are: (1) habitat destruction as the growing human population
clears bush and forest for house-building sites, cultivation, and firewood; and (2)
hunting by various groups of hunters because the felid is associated with witchcraft,
occasionally mauls people and livestock, and its skin and other parts are valuable.
An educated guess is that the Zanzibar leopard population has probably
reached a critical level: without human intervention it will be completely eliminated
well within the next ten years. Two key questions remain. First, should the leopard
be conserved? Second, if so, how? Though these queries were beyond the scope of
our research—an investigation of local attitudes and practices concerning leopards—
we believe that some recommendations should be attempted here.
Whether the Zanzibar leopard merits conservation efforts is a complex issue.
One might first consider the status of leopards worldwide. First listed in CITES'
Appendix I (where it remains) in 1973, the status of leopards has been controversial
as some have argued that leopards are not endangered while others have
vehemently disagreed (Nowell and Jackson 1996). The IUCN Cat Specialist Group
currently lists the leopard in Global Category 5a, which is a mid-level priority
ranking, though the leopard's Regional ranking for Sub-Saharan Africa is higher, in
Category 4 (ibid).
In terms of preserving the world's biodiversity, the importance of the
Zanzibar leopard can arguably depend on the precise degree of its genetic
divergence from leopards elsewhere. As observed earlier, there is a good chance
that the Zanzibar leopard, like the leopards of Java and Sri Lanka, does indeed
constitute a distinct subspecies. To this end, further research is clearly required and
we recommend that genetic samples be collected and analysed by experts in the very
near future.
Even if the Zanzibar leopard is determined to be a distinct subspecies, and
therefore to be conserved, it may be discovered that there are simply too few
leopards remaining to make it worth the expenditure that a conservation
programme would entail. Leopards are known to be among the most flexible and
adaptable of felids, showing surprising resistance to habitat encroachment and
hunting, yet pressures on the leopard in Zanzibar may prove insurmountable at this
late hour. Again, more research is required and we strongly recommend a study of
leopard numbers and distribution that is based not merely on second-hand reports
of sightings, but rather on tracking, photo-trapping, faecal analysis, and other such
methods. Our anthropological survey will, it is hoped, provide useful background
material for future demographic and ecological research.
Finally, but by no means least important, Zanzibari attitudes must be
reckoned with: any conservation programme will ultimately fail without the consent
and active participation of Zanzibaris themselves. This includes village hunters and
farmers, local-level leaders, National Hunters, government bodies such as the
Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources, and the police. The
picture is, as we have portrayed it here, rather grim, yet we have also uncovered
several bright points that may, if carefully developed, serve leopard conservation.
One of these points is the association of leopards with "sacred sites." With support
from government agencies, these traditionally protected groves might be expanded
in order to provide good-sized pockets of land in which hunting and tree-cutting are

prohibited. Though these areas are too small to provide leopards with adequate
prey, at least some suitable den sites would be protected.
Another point is the reputation of the Zanzibar leopard as "king" (mfalme).
Even as our informants vilified leopards, many showed a grudging admiration for
the animals' size, strength, and cunning. The Zanzibar leopard could and should be
a source of national pride.
Linked to this is the growing awareness (especially among the younger
generation) that the increasing numbers of tourists flocking to Zanzibar are keenly
interested in wildlife and conservation more generally. These ideas are still in their
infancy and are limited to inappropriate suggestions for trapping and exhibiting
leopards in cages. But, if carefully nurtured, such ideas may develop into more
sophisticated understandings of conservation as other, more appropriate, outlets for
eco-tourists are presented as alternatives. We further recommend that leopard
conservation be tied to the conservation of other species, such as Ader's duiker and
Zanzibar red colobus monkeys, as the island's rare, endangered, and endemic
wildlife are less and less regarded as impediments to rural production, but rather as
valuable natural resources which must be protected in their wild state.

Appendix A: Recent evidence for the presence of leopards

place last report of additional information
Tumbatu none Tumbatu Island has no leopards, 'kept' or otherwise, according to our
informant from Nungwi. There are, to our knowledge, no reports of
leopards ever having lived on the island.

Nungwi c. 1991 Archer (1994) was told of a leopard sighting near Nungwi about three
years earlier. According to our own informant, leopards have
disappeared from Nungwi. He recalled that cattle were mauled just
outside the village by a leopard 6-7 years ago (c. 1989-90).

Matemwe c. 1991 A leopard was last seen in the area 5 years ago, as reported by a villager
to R. Wild (personal communication).

Mchangani 1993? A leopard was killed in 1993 by Village Hunters from Mchangani and
Pangeni (see Appendix B). This incident may, however, have taken
place in the latter area, or even elsewhere.

Upenja 1995 In February 1995 the District Commissioner of Unguja North B
forwarded a letter to the National Hunters asking them to take action
against a leopard which was harassing people and livestock in Upenja.
The National Hunters were not, however, able to organise a hunt and
did not respond to the request. Selkow (1995) was told by a hunter from
Upenja that a cow had been injured on its flanks by a leopard 5 months
previously (around the end of 1994); the same hunter also reported that
a donkey had been killed two years before (c. 1993).

Paangeni 1995 In May, or thereabouts, the National Hunters received a letter from the
authorities in Pangeni asking them to take action against a leopard
which was killing cattle in a government-owned herd. They did not
respond due to difficulties in organising a hunt.

Pongwe 1995 Selkow (1995) was told by an 18-year old woman that, in the company of
two other Pongwe women, she had seen a leopard on 18 April 1995:
"During the morning at the quarry near Jasini, they saw it from
approximately 50 metres away, coughing and coming at them, and it
had the shoulder height of a goat. She was unable to give any further
details because she was scared and ran away."

Ndudu 1996 A 10-year old boy reported seeing a leopard on the road which leads
south to Uroa: this was about two months earlier (around May). It was
in the morning when he was going to school with his elder sister, who
took to her heels in fright. Another informant, a woman, told us that she
saw a female leopard and cub at Matuni about a year ago (mid-1995).
National Hunt records indicate that a leopard was killed at Ndudu in

Uroa 1996? Informants in Ndudu reported that a leopard had been seen a few
months earlier (early 1996) to the south of Ndudu, near Uroa. However,
our informants in Uroa itself did not of this incident nor did they cite
any other recent sightings. Selkow (1995) was told by a man in Uroa
that he had seen a leopard take three waterfowl three months earlier
(January or February 1995). National Hunt records show that two
leopards were killed in Uroa in 1994.

Chwaka 1996 Three goats were killed by a leopard in early July. This happened after
dark, at around 7:30 pm. The leopard was said to have torn out only the
hearts and livers of the goats, and was alleged to belong to a local
keeper. National Hunt records show that a leopard was killed in
Chwaka in 1994 and another one in the Ufufuma forest in 1991.

Umbuji ? SIH believes one or more leopards are present in this area.

Jendele 1994? National Hunt records show that a leopard was killed in Jendele in
1994. However, this may have been the same as the Hanyengwamchana
record of the same year. An earlier kill occurred in 1989.

Hanyegwa- 1994 A leopard was killed during a National Hunt on 2 October. Four dogs
mchana were injured by the leopard.

Bumbwini ? According to SIH, leopards were one present in Bumbwini, but in small

Kidoti ? According to SIH, leopards were present in this area in the past.

Cheju ? SIH believes there to be a kept leopard in this area. According to his
National Hunt records, a leopard was killed there in 1992.

Ubago 1994 A leopard was killed during a National Hunt on December 4.

Zanzibar 1996 According to SIH, in February or so, a leopard was sighted at Makadara,
Town near Uwanja wa Lumumba. In about November, 1995, a dog was
attacked at night at the home of a cartwright. The dog was clawed but
managed to escape. The leopard fled when people were alerted, and its
alleged owner was later accused and threatened. We were also told of
an incident in Saateni 5 years ago (c. 1991), when a leopard broke into a
chicken house at night and killed around 20 birds.

Fuoni ? SIH believes there is one kept leopard in Fuoni and another in the Fuoni-
Kidutani area.

Nyamanzi ? SIH believes there is one kept leopard here.

Dimani 1996 On c. 21 April, three leopard cubs were reported to have been killed and
fed to their dogs by some young hunters. According to an active local
hunter, leopards are common in the area, though there are far fewer
than there were in the past. They are seen most often on the coral rag,
for example at a place called Kwa Haji Hassan, where there is mixture of
high and low trees. Sometimes they are seen on the main road at night.
He had not seen one himself for 3 months (since around March), since he
been busy cultivating. Otherwise, he expects to see a leopard on about
every fifth day of hunting (he hunts on alternate days, which gives
around three sightings a month). By contrast, one 39-year old man we
spoke to in the village had never seen a leopard.

Fumba ? SIH believes there is a kept leopard in Fumba.

Uzi c. 1988 Our informants agreed there are no leopards left on Uzi Island. One
hunter reported that leopards disappeared 8 years ago (c. 1988), and that
he had not seen or heard one himself for 20 years. Another informant
estimated that before they were hunted out, the island supported 10-15
"wild" leopards.

Unguja Ukuu 1996 National Hunters saw a leopard in Kaebona in June, during the day.
SIH believes this to be a kept leopard. One of our informants had seen a
set of leopard pugmarks about 3 months before the interview (April or
so). He also reported seeing a leopard about 3 years ago (c. 1993). This
was when he was hunting alone, at night, in the bush. Marshall (1994)
recorded a single sighting in November 1994. Another informant said
that there are now very few leopards, if any, around Unguja Ukuu, and
suggested that they may moved to other parts of the island. There is, he
said, an alleged leopard keeper in Tindini, and possibly another in
Uzina Kwero. A third villager told us that there are no leopards
remaining in the area: he used to hear their calls, but not longer does.
National Hunt records show three leopard kills in 1987.

Pete 1996 According to SIH, hunters reported sighting a leopard on two occasions
in June, both times in broad daylight. A leopard is reported to have
been sighted by a villager at Kichanga, Pete, in September 1996, after the
conclusion of our survey. In October, a (presumably female) leopard
and two cubs were seen by villagers at Kilimani Latusi, near the main
road and this was assumed to be the same leopard as that seen at
Kichanga earlier. In November, a leopard was reportedly seen at
Mungwi on three separate occasions by a villager. On November 28, a
foreigner doing research on red colobus monkeys saw pugmarks of an
adult leopard and a smaller one, at Kichanga. One of our informants, a
32-year old hunter, reported seeing leopards about five times every year.
His last sighting, around June of 1996, was in the bush at Kichanga: he
was not hunting, and the leopard, a female, lay down when she saw
him. About 3 years ago (c. 1993), he saw leopard cubs during the dry
season, in the daytime. He estimated that there are now possibly three
kept leopards in the area. He added that he had seen leopards on the
way to both Ukongoroni (twice) and Paje. Another informant said that
he had not seen a leopard for 4-5 years (since c. 1991-92), when there
were a number of raids on chicken coops. Likewise he had not heard
leopards calling for many years. Nonetheless, he thought that there
were still leopards in the Pete area, possibly as many as ten. Marshall
(1994) only gathered one record from Pete for the 1990-94 period: a call
heard in 1992. A leopard was in fact killed by National Hunters in Pete
in November 1992.

Jozani 1996 Leopard pugmarks have been observed in Jozani Forest on a number of
occasions: most recently in June 1996, on the path to Wangwani, by R.
Wild, the Conservation Advisor of the Jozani-Chwaka Bay Conservation
Project, and A. Archer, an experienced hunter and naturalist (figures 10-
12). Our informant believes that there are possibly two leopards in the
area, ranging between Jozani, Charawe, an Ukongoroni. Marshall (1994)
was told of four leopard sightings in 1994, together with one observation
of pugmarks. Seven sightings and one observation of pugmarks were
reported from 1993. Our own informant in Jozani village remarked that
he had not heard leopards in the area for some years. The last time he
saw a leopard was in Muyuni, about 7 years ago (c. 1989); otherwise he
saw leopards regularly in about 1985, at Mapandani, where the road
forks to Charawe and Ukongoroni. National Hunt records report a
leopard killed in Jozani in 1993.

Bungi- 1994 A leopard was killed by National Hunters in January 1994 and another
kerenge one in 1993. A leopard was also killed by National Hunters at
Kiwandani (not the Kiwandani near Kitogani) in December 1992.

Kitogani 1996 One informant noted that he still hears leopards calling and estimated
that there are four of them in Kitogani and Muuongoni combined (three
"wild" and one "kept"). The last leopard killed in the area, he said, was
about 3 years ago. Although he remembered this as the work of an
individual hunter, it may be the same as the National Hunters kill
recorded on 2 January 1994. He also recalled the case of a youth mauled
by a leopard about 5 years ago (c. 1991) in a valley north of the road.
This youth, who was cultivating at the time, had run to investigate the
cries of his dog, which was in the process of being killed by the leopard.
Marshall (1994) received reports of two sightings in 1994, with
pugmarks and scat also being observed. The only other evidence he
collected for the period from 1990 onward was a sighting in 1991.

Muungoni 1996 A 33-year old hunter reported hearing calls, albeit infrequently: the last
occasion was 2 months earlier (in May), when he was cultivating. He
has also seen leopard scat through to the present and estimated that
there are four leopards in the Muungoni area. He has only definitely
seen a leopard once, four years ago (1992). While out hunting just before
dawn, he heard a grumbling sound and saw a leopard with a partly
eaten Zanzibar red colobus monkey. SIH, who believes there are two
kept leopards in Muungoni, related that while during a hunt at night
(with a full moon) in 1995, four dogs chased a leopard into a house. The
hunters abandoned the chase, believing that this must be a kept leopard.
Another informant reported that some local children had found leopard
cubs in a hollow about 3 years earlier (c. 1993) and people subsequently
avoided the area. He thought that leopards had been very few in
number from the 1970's onwards, but over the past year have begun to
increase in the area. According to National Hunt Records, individual
leopards were killed at Muungoni during hunts in March 1994 (when
three dogs were mauled by a leopard after it had been shot) and August
1993. Four leopard kills were attributed to Village Hunters in
Muungoni in 1991.

Charawe 1994 SIH has not heard of any leopards currently in this area. Marshall (1994)
recorded a single sighting in 1994, as well as a report of pugmarks. A
leopard call was heard the previous year and two sightings reported for
1992. Archer (1994) records the sighting of a leopard near Charawe in
1994. Two leopards were reported killed in Charawe in 1993. However,
the hunter we interviewed in Charawe claimed not to have heard a
leopard since he last hunted one, 10 years ago.

Ukongoroni 1996 We were told by one villager that leopards can often be seen at night
along the path to Bwejuu and he also offered to show us a site with some
leopard bones. At least one sighting in Ukongoroni was reported from
1995, when a leopard was seen during a National Hunt. National
Hunters were said to have seen leopards three times in recent years.
Marshall's (1994) informants reported seeing pugmarks (once), scat
(twice), and hearing calls (once) in 1994, while there had also been a
sighting in 1993. Our older local informants, however, claimed that
there are no longer any leopards in the area. By contrast, a number of
hunters in villages to the south-west remarked that Ukongoroni is the
area in which they would most expect to see leopards. National Hunt
records indicate that a leopard was killed in 1993. SIH believes that
there are two kept leopards in Ukongoroni.

Dongwe 1994 Marshall (1994) noted a single sighting in October 1994, with
observations of pugmarks and scat the following month. Single
sightings were also reported for each of the preceding 4 years (1990-93).
Archer reported that a hunter had seen a leopard near Dongwe at night
in 1994.

Bwejuu 1994 Marshall's (1994) informants reported pugmarks and scat in 1994. They
also recalled a sighting in 1991. Archer (1994) recorded that a hunter
had encountered a leopard early in the morning at Ziwani, on the path
between Ukongoroni and Bwejuu, in 1994 (compare the Ukongoroni
observations). Two leopards were reported killed in Bwejuu in 1989.

Mtule 1996 In is rumoured that a party of "Omani" (wamanga) hunters from
Mlandege in Zanzibar Town killed a leopard in Mtule (between Kitogani
and Paje) in March. A male leopard was seen by National Hunters in
south Mtule in January 1996. The same leopard had also been seen in
the same area during a National Hunt the previous month, i.e.,
December 1995. This was at night, when it attacked and injured a
hunter's dog. In about September of the same year, a group of hunters
following Ader's duiker also saw a leopard. This particular individual
was reputed to be owned by a man in Paje who cuts wood in the area.
Before this, a leopard was killed in Mtule during a National Hunt in
1994 and three leopards were reported killed in 1990.

Paje 1994 Marshall (1994) was told of a leopard sighting in the Paje area in 1994;
earlier the same year pugmarks and scat had been observed. Individual
sightings were also reported for 1993, 1992, and 1990. Selkow was told
of an attack upon a cow in Paje, but does not indicate how recently this
may have taken place. Our own Paje informants did not volunteer any
recent sightings, though a hunter from Jozani had heard of a young man
who had been mauled by a leopard on the path to Paje about 6 years ago
(c. 1990). A South African couple were offered a leopard skin in Paje in
1994, but refused to consider purchasing it. This skin could, of course,
have come from another area. The most recent leopard kill identified as
taking place in Paje as such was in 1989.

Jambiani 1995 A leopard was killed during a National Hunt in April: one dog was
injured. An earlier National Hunt, in 1994, claimed one leopard, while
two were killed in 1988. Our informants did nor volunteer any recent

Muyuni B 1995 Our informants in this village agreed that leopards are no longer present
in the area. One active hunter reported that he had not seen or heard
evidence of leopards for some years: although some people claim to
have seen them, he is sure they are only African civets. He last saw a
leopard 8 years ago (c. 1988), when he took part in a kill together with
other local hunters in the Muyuni valley area. Our other local
informant, no longer active as a hunter, assterted that a leopard had not
been killed in the area of 15-20 years.

Muyuni C 1993 Archer (1994) reported that leopard sightings 'go back from one to three
years' here.

Kizimkazi 1996 Our informant in Dimbini, Kizimkazi, reported that a leopard had been
seen in the daytime about 3 months ago (c. April). He though that the
largest numbers of leopards were at Kibuteni (mentioned by a number
of leopards as a centre for leopard keepers) and in the forest north of
Muyuni A, where Ader's duiker are lso found. National Hunt records
indicate that a leopard was killed in Kizimkazi during a hunt in 1993.

Makunduchi 1994 A hunter from this area told Selkow (1995) that 6 months earlier (late
1994) a leopard had killed a cow. One of our informants in Kajengwa
claimed that leopards have been absent from the immediate
Makunduchi area for about 3 years (since c. 1993), as evidenced by the
fact that chickens and goats straying into the bush remain unharmed.
He though it possible that one or two could be found in the south. He
had killed a leopard himself, to the west of Makunduchi, in 1994. He
was one of a party of five to six hunters with 18 dogs, hunting at night.
The same hunter had also shot a leopard on the way to Jambiani in 1990,
in the daytime. Our other local informant had not seen or heard a
leopard for about 6 years (since c. 1990), when he saw one in a field.

Appendix B: Statistics of leopards killed

Table B.1. Comparison of leopard kill statistics from different sources (includes
National Hunts and Village Hunts).

Year Hunt Annual 1985-93 1985-94
reports* summaries** summary summary
(typed)*** (ms.)/SIH
1995 1 -- -- --
1994 4 5 -- 5
1993 1 6 6 6
1991 1 17 0 1
1990 0 9 0 3
1989 1 11 1 3
1988 0 0 9 2
1987 0 0 0 5
1986 0 0 0 4
1985 0 0 3 7
1984 0 0 -- --
1983 0 0 -- --

totals 10 57 19 40

* Hunt reports are tallies of individual National Hunts. These are kept in the Department of Regional
** Annual summaries, stored with individual hunt reports, are tallies of all National Hunts carried
out in a year and include some information for Village Hunts as well.
***The 1985-93 summary (typed) is contained in the Ripoti ya utekelezaji wa kazi za kitengo cha
uhifadhi mwezi wa Januari 1995, which is in the Monthly Report File of the Zanzibar National
****The 1985-94 summary (ms.) is a handwritten document, by the former secretary of the National
Hunters (SIH). It is in the Wildlife Facts File at the Zanzibar National Archives. SIH has the notes on
which this manuscript is based.

Tables B.2. to B.13. Details of known leopards killings, compiled from sources cited
above and informants' recollections, from 1985 to mid-July 1996.

Table B.2. Leopards killed in 1985.
date place leopards (source of information), hunters involved,
killed additional observations
undated Makunduchi 3 (SIH records). National Hunters.
undated Mtende 2 (SIH records). National Hunters.
undated Kibuteni 2 (SIH records). National Hunters.
total in 1985 7

Table B.3. Leopards killed in 1986.
date place leopards (source of information), hunters involved,
killed additional observations
undated Muyuni 2 (SIH records). National Hunters.
undated Kizimkazi 2 (SIH records). National Hunters.
total in 1986 4

Table B.4. Leopards killed in 1987.
date place leopards (source of information), hunters involved,
killed additional observations
undated Kaebona, Unguja Ukuu 2 (SIH records). National Hunters.
undated Shangani, Kae Pwani, 1 (SIH records). National Hunters.
Unguja Ukuu
undated Pete 2 (SIH records). National Hunters. SIH recalls
the case of a leopard killed in Pete by National
Hunters c. 1987. He was later accosted by the
leopard's alleged keeper who told him that the
National Hunters would have no further
success in hunting bushpigs and other game in
this area and this indeed turned out to be the
case. This was therefore presumably the
second of the two leopards killed in Pete this
year. It may well have been the last leopard
killed here, an event which one of our Pete
informants also said had occured about 10
years ago.
total in 1987 5

Table B.5. Leopards killed in 1988.
date place leopards (source of information), hunters involved,
killed additional observations
undated Jambiani 2 (SIH records). National Hunters.
undated unrecorded 9 (1985-93 summary [typed]). National Hunters.
One or two of these may be the Jambiani kills,
above. The 1985-94 summary (ms.) shows
only two leopards.
total in 1988 11 at least 9 if the typed version is correct; as few
as 2 if the ms. is correct.

Table B.6. Leopards killed in 1989.
date place leopards (source of information), hunters involved,
killed additional observations
16/11 Jendele 1 (hunt report). National Hunters.
10/9-23/12 unrecorded 8 (annual summary). National Hunters. One of
these could be the Jendele kill of 16/11. A
Kitogani informant recalled a National Hunt
kill in 1989 at Manyuni.
undated somewhere in Uzi, Unguja 1 (annual summary). Village Hunters of these
Ukuu, or Pete villages.
undated somewhere in Bwejuu, 1 (annual summary). Village Hunters.
Paje, or Jambiani
undated somewhere in Muungoni, 1 (annual summary). Village Hunters. This
Muyuni, Kizimkazi, or could possibly be the kill which one of our
Makunduchi informants reported has having taken place in
the Muyuni valley 8 years ago.
undated Paje 1 (SIH records). National Hunters. This could
be one of the kills recorded in annual
undated Bwejuu 2 (SIH records). National Hunters. One or both
could be kills recorded in annual summary.
total in 1989 15 At least 11 if records are consolidated.

Table B.7. Leopards killed in 1990.
date place leopards (source of information), hunters involved,
killed additional observations
7/10-31/12 unrecorded 2 (annual summary). National Hunters
undated somewhere in Muyuni, 3 (annual summary). Village Hunters. Note
Kizimkazi, or Makunduchi that the summary is dated 7/10-31/12, so
some of these and other kills recorded in it
could date from the last week of 1989. One of
the kills involving Village Hunters from
Makunduchi could be the same as that
reported by our Kajengwa informant to have
been shot by him to the north of the village, on
the way to Jambiani. This took place in 1990.
undated somewhere in Ndijani, 1 (annual summary). Village Hunters.
Dunga, Umbuji, or Bambi
undated somewhere in Charawe, 2 (annual summary). Village Hunters.
Chwaka, or Uroa
undated somewhere in Kinyasini, 1 (annual summary). Village Hunters.
Upenja, Pangeni, or
undated Mtule (between Kitogani 3 (SIH records). National Hunters. One or two
and Paje) of these kills cold be the same as those made
by the National Hunters unrecorded locations
between 7/10 and 31/12.
total in 1990 12 At least 10 if records are consolidated.

Table B.8. Leopards killed in 1991.
date place leopards (source of information), hunters involved,
killed additional observations
24-25/7 Ufufuma forest (east of 1 (hunt report). Village Hunters (konakubwa).
15/7-31/12 unrecorded 2 (annual summary). National Hunters.
undated Muungoni 4 (annual summary and SIH records). Village
undated somewhere in 7 (annual summary). Village Hunters.
Makunduchi, Jambiani,
Paje, or Bwejuu
undated somewhere in Charawe, 2 (annual summary). Village Hunters. One of
Chwaka, or Uroa these may be the kill made in Ufufuma on 24-
undated somewhere in Mkwajuni 1 (annual summary). Village Hunters.
or Chaani (prob. on coral
rag to the east)
undated Pangeni or Kiwengwa 1 (annual summary). Village Hunters.
total in 1991 18 At least 17 if records are consolidated.

Table B.9. Leopards killed in 1992.
date place leopards (source of information), hunters involved,
killed additional observations
1/1-14/6 unrecorded 1 (annual summary). National Hunters.
15/6-11/10 unrecorded 1 (annual summary). National Hunters.
12/10-31/12 unrecorded 1 (annual summary). National Hunters. This,
or one of the earlier unlocated National Hunts
may have been that observed by an informant
from Kiwengwa. He saw a leopard which had
been shot at Pango Sinashara, in the bush near
15/11 Pete 1 (annual summary). National Hunters.
?/12 Kiwandani (near Bungi 1 (hunt report). National Hunters. This is
Kerenge) possibly the last one recorded in the annual
undated somewhere in southern 3 (annual summary). Village Hunters of Uzi,
Unguja Unguja Ukuu, Pete, Muungoni, Bwejuu, Paje,
Jambiani, Makunduchi, Kizimkazi, and
Muyuni. One or two of these leopards may be
the ones recorded in individual hunt reports.
undated somewhere in Charawe, 2 (annual summary). Village Hunters.
Ukongoroni, Chwaka, or
undated somewhere in central 1 (annual summary). Village Hunters from
Unguja bambi, Umbuji, Ndijani, Dunga, and Mkorogo
(east of Fuoni and northeast of Jumbi).
undated Cheju 1 (SIH records). National Hunters. Possibly one
of the above.
total in 1992 12 At least 9 if records are consolidated.

Table B.10. Leopards killed in 1993.
date place leopards (source of information), hunters involved,
killed additional observations
6-7/2 Kizimkazi 1 (hunt report). Combined party of National
and Village Hunters.
17/4 Ukongoroni 1 (annual summary). National Hunters.
1/8 Muungoni 1 (annual summary). National Hunters.
undated somewhere in Muyuni, 2 (annual summary). Village Hunters. One of
Kibuteni, Kizimkazi, or these is possible the same as that recorded
Makunduchi killed by National and Village Hunters in
Kizimkazi, 6-7/2.
undated somewhere in Chwaka, 1 (annual summary). Village Hunters.
Marumbi, or Uroa
undated somewhere in Mchangani 1 (annual summary). Village Hunters.
or Pangeni (south of
undated Charawe 2 (SIH records). National Hunters.
undated Ukongoroni 2 (SIH records). National Hunters. One of these
is probably the same as that recorded killed on
17/4 in the annual summary.
undated Jozani 1 (SIH records). National Hunters.
undated Bungi Kerenge 1 (SIH records). National Hunters.
total in 1993 13 At least 11 if records are consolidated.

Table B.11. Leopards killed in 1994.
date place leopards (source of information), hunters involved,
killed additional observations
2/1 Kitogani 1 (annual summary). National Hunters.
22-32/1 Bungi Kerenge 1 (hunt report). National Hunters.
6/2 Mtule 1 (annual summary). National Hunters.
13/3 Muungoni 1 (hunt report). National Hunters.
2/10 Hanyegwamchana 1 (hunt report). National Hunters.
6/10 Jambiani 1 (annual summary). National Hunters.
4/12 Ubago (c. 10 km west of 1 (hunt report and annual summary). National
Town) Hunters.
undated somewhere in Muyuni, 1 (annual summary). Village Hunters. This is
Kizimkazi, and possibly the leopard reported by one of our
Makunduchi Makunduchi informants. The leopard was
killed west of the settled area.
undated Ndudu 1 (SIH records). National Hunters.
undated Uroa 2 (SIH records). National Hunters.
undated Chwaka 1 (SIH records). National Hunters.
undated Jendele 1 (SIH records). National Hunters. Possibly the
same as the leopard killed in
Hanyegwamchana on 2/10.
total in 1994 13 12 if two of the records can be consolidated.

Table B.12. Leopards killed in 1995.
date place leopards (source of information), hunters involved,
killed additional observations
17-18/4 Jambiani 1 (hunt report). National Hunters.
total in 1995 1

Table B.13. Leopards killed in 1996.
date place leopards (source of information), hunters involved,
killed additional observations
c. 21/4 Dimani 3 One of our informants, an individual hunter in
Dimani, reported having killed three cubs.
?/3 Mtule 1 According to an unverified report, "Omani"
(Wamanga) hunters from Mlandege in Town
killed a leopard in Mtule in March.
total in 1996 4 At least 3 if Mtule report is discounted.
to mid-July

Appendix C: Leopard classification and linguistics
(Martin T. Walsh)

1. Introduction

The classification and naming of the Zanzibar Leopard and its perceived varieties is
a complex subject which previous investigators have barely done justice. In this
appendix we will examine this subject in some detail. Although it provides some
clues to the range of morphological variation which exists in Unguja’s leopard
population, readers are warned that it does not produce information that can be
easily translated into zoological terms, though we have tried to indicate some of the
ways in which it may. It does, however, provide a number of insights into local
ethnozoology and its linguistic history, fascinating topics in their own right. Given
the threatened status of the Zanzibar Leopard and diminishing knowledge of it on
the island, we have felt it important to record what we can of indigenous taxonomy,
adding our own deductions about its historical background. We do so not only to
help preserve this knowledge before it is lost, but also in view of the possibility that
some of this information may be used in environmental education, especially in
efforts designed to preserve the Zanzibar Leopard from extinction.
During our interviews with hunters and other Swahili speakers we recorded
25 different Swahili names or expressions for leopards, including the generic chui.
One additional term was found in a published vocabulary of the Makunduchi
dialect, bringing the total to 26. This is a surprisingly large number of names for a
single species, and we have no doubt that a more extensive survey, including more
work in central and northern Unguja, would add further to the list. Thirteen of the
terms we recorded were given to us as names for different types or varieties of
leopard which our informants recognised or had heard of: the remainder are
euphemisms and other miscellaneous terms used by hunters to refer to leopards in
specific contexts. No single informant produced the whole list, or anything
approaching it: hunters named two or three varieties of leopard at most, and only
one informant could recall three euphemisms. Very few hunters produced the same
classification or list of names, even when they hailed from the same village. Even
when they did agree on names for one or more types of leopard, their descriptions of
what these names represented often differed considerably.
The overall picture which emerges is one of considerable taxonomic and
linguistic heterogeneity, to some extent fragmentation. There seem to be three main
reasons for this, as follows:

(1) Lack of close familiarity with leopards. A relatively small proportion of Unguja’s
population have seen the Zanzibar Leopard at close quarters, whether alive or dead
in the form of carcasses or skins. Rather fewer people have an active interest in
differentiating one kind of leopard from another: the most obvious category of those
who do being hunters. The current generation of hunters has had even less exposure
to leopards than those who were hunting twenty and more years ago, and it was
apparent that our younger informants were often much less well informed than their

elders. In many areas there are also fewer committed hunters than there were in the
past, and cooperation between hunters in different communities and at different
levels is clearly not what it was. As leopards and leopard kills and sightings have
become rarer, and opportunities for sharing information about them have
diminished, the pool of indigenous knowledge about them has become increasingly
impoverished - and this is reflected in the fragmentation of taxonomies and

(2) Fear of leopard keepers and association with leopard keeping. Hunters are often wary
of disseminating the knowledge which they do possess about leopards. They have
two good reasons to be secretive: fear of the wrath of leopard keepers who they
believe may target them as a threat to their nefarious activities; and the fear that they
may be accused of being leopard keepers themselves (how else could they know so
much about leopards?). This last consideration appears to have discouraged some of
our own informants from revealing their knowledge, especially when interviewed in
groups (which we therefore tried to avoid). When talking about leopards in front of
others, hunters frequently employ euphemisms to conceal the subject of
conversation. Careless talk kills, or at least may lead to affliction of one kind or
another (who knows when a leopard keeper might be listening?). The net result, or
rather one of the results, of this culture of sensitivity surrounding discourse about
leopards is to discourage the communication and dissemination of knowledge about
them, including the relevant terminologies, at local village level as well as more

(3) Complex dialect geography and history. Although the vast majority of Unguja’s
inhabitants are first language speakers of Swahili, and Zanzibar town is the home of
the standardised version of this language, the dialect geography of the island is
notably complex. This is no doubt a result of the fact that Unguja has been subject to
numerous external influences, including different epsiodes of immigration, as well
as internal political shifts and local movements of population, in the course of its
history. Linguists have traditionally divided the Swahili dialects of the island into
three, reflecting a parallel ethnographic classification. These dialects / clusters are
(a) Unguja, the speech of Zanzibar town and the plantation areas in the west and
centre of the island, which is expanding at the expense of the other dialects; (b)
Tumbatu, spoken on Tumbatu Island and, to a diminishing degree, in other parts of
the north; and (c) the dialect cluster of southern and eastern Unguja, including
Makunduchi (Kae) and related local varieties, formerly subsumed under the (now
derogatory) ethnic group label Hadimu (Nurse and Hinnebusch 1993). The last of
these clearly requires more careful description on a village by village basis, a task yet
to be undertaken comprehensively by linguists. Although many features of local
speech have been buried under the advance of the main Unguja dialect, a
considerable amount of lexical variation has survived, notably in specialised
terminologies such as that being considered here. Other aspects of ethnobiological
classification in this region show a similar pattern of local fragmentation: these
include the indigenous taxonomies of the smaller carnivores, snakes, and plants in

general. The impact of local linguistic history and differentiation upon leopard
taxonomy is equally evident.
Given the simultaneous operation of these three factors, it is perhaps not
surprising that the classification and naming of leopards lacks any overall coherence,
even at local level. Indeed, some of our informants offered taxonomies and
terminologies which appeared to be the idiosyncratic products of their own idiolects,
leaving us to wonder whether they had been assembled for the first time under
pressure from our questioning. Only a more detailed survey could confirm or deny

2. Glossary of Named Varieties

The following is a glossary of all the names we recorded, with notes on informants’
descriptions of the named types and the meanings and inferred etymologies of the

bete (5/6?)28 [Chwaka]29
kibete (7/8) [Charawe]

The term bete was elicited from a relatively young informant in Chwaka, who gave it
as the name for a short but robust leopard, in contrast to mwanzi (see below). An
older hunter in Charawe, who initially classified leopards into two main types
(bungala and kariuki), subsequently used the cognate term kibete to describe small
leopards in general. He did so on the prompting of one of his interviewers (SIH),
offering it as a synonym for the term kichigi, which was introduced by the latter. The
Standard Swahili dictionaries define kibete, and its alternative kibeti, as a person or
animal which is smaller or shorter than usual; a pygmy, or dwarf (Johnson 1939;
Taasisi ya Uchunguzi wa Kiswahili 1981). The application of this term to small
leopards is therefore quite straightforward. Its etymology, however, is less
transparent. There is no obvious link with the other meaning of kibeti (and beti (5/6))
as a small, usually leather, pouch, especially if it is true, as the Standard
Swahili-English Dictionary suggests, that this is a loanword from English ‘belt’
(Johnson 1939).

bungala (5/6) [Charawe]

This term was given as the name of a type of leopard by a single informant, the
hunter from Charawe referred to above. He described bungala as the largest and
longest of two named types, contrasting it with the smaller kariuki, and adding that
its coat is characteristically shiny, and that this variety is preferred by leopard
keepers. According to SIH, the name bungala, like mkonge, is more normally applied
to the largest male and female Bush Pigs, Potamochoerus porcus. Given that only one

28 Noun class.
29 Area of current usage.

informant volunteered bungala as a term for leopards, the suggestion that it has been
adopted from porcine terminology seems quite plausible. bungala is also used to
describe varieties of rice, banana, and sugar-cane, and according to the Standard
Swahili-English Dictionary is a (presumably relatively recent) loanword meaning
‘Bengal’, as in the name of the Indian region (Johnson 1939). It is not immediately
clear why the same term should be applied to large pigs (and hence leopards): the
most likely explanation would be that these mammals share something in common
(large size? colour?) with one or more of the bungala cultivars.

chui (9/10) [all Swahili speakers]

This is the general name and cover term for all leopards. Cognate forms of the same
name are found all along the Swahili-speaking coast, and it is also the Standard
Swahili term for leopards. The proto-Sabaki form of this name has been
reconstructed as *ncuWi, derived from a Common Bantu root with the same meaning
(Nurse and Hinnebusch 1993). Evidently, and as might be expected, the Swahili and
their Bantu-speaking ancestors have remained familiar with leopards throughout
their history, hence the retention of this common name.
Not surprisingly, chui occurs as an element in place names in Unguja,
including Chuini (‘the place of the leopard(s)’), Machui (meaning ‘many leopards’,
possibly ‘large’ or ‘bad leopards’), and Kijibwe Chui (‘little rock of the leopard(s)’).

(chui) asili (9/10) [Kizimkazi]

One informant, from Dimbani, Kizimkazi, used the name chui asili for leopards
which are large, have predominantly yellowish coats, and are fiercer than the other
type he identified (chui uwanda, small and ‘red’ in colour). He also volunteered that
chui asili is the type which is most often kept by leopard keepers. asili is a loanword
from Arabic (Johnson 1939), and in this context, used adjectivally, means ‘original’ or
‘typical’. chui asili is evidently a substitute for one of the more widely used terms,
either kisutu or konge.

(chui) mwanzi (9/10) [Chwaka, Mangapwani, Ndudu, Pete, Zanzibar town]

The name chui mwanzi was first recorded by Pakenham at Mangapwani, who placed
it on his list of ‘Animals reported but undiscovered’ and remarked ‘Possibly a local
name for Panthera pardus but unlikely’ (1984). Marshall (1994), who only worked to
the south and east of Jozani Forest, did not record mwanzi as a leopard name, but
Selkow (1995) did, probably because he also worked in villages to the north of
Jozani. From informants’ descriptions he surmised that the mwanzi was the longest
of three types, ‘having slender hind quarters and a bulkier chest and fore limbs. It
has a predominantly yellow coat with black spots. However, two of his interviewees
described it as mostly “black”’.
Our own research suggests that the name mwanzi has a predominantly
northern distribution, and earlier records tend to support this. A woman informant
in Ndudu contrasted mwanzi with ngawa, describing it as long and coloured like the

kisutu variety of kanga cloth (pointing to an example which was yellow and green in
colour). A male informant in Chwaka contrasted it with the short and robust bete,
noting that it was long and slender, its coat coloured yellow with large black spots.
A hunter in Pete differentiated it from both chui unyasi and kisutu, remarking that it
had smaller spots than the latter. SIH, meanwhile, possesses a small piece of a skin
which he describes as mwanzi, different in colour (a richer yellow) from both mkonge
and kichigi. This piece of skin was taken from a leopard kill in Muyuni in 1986.
However, none of the informants he showed this piece to identified it as being from
a mwanzi leopard, though two described it as belonging to the (m)konge variety
(Kitogani and Muungoni). These observations support the thesis that mwanzi is a
term from northern and / or central Unguja, referring to the larger type or types of
leopard which are usually called konge or kisutu in the south.
The primary meaning of mwanzi (3/4) is ‘bamboo’, and on Unguja in
particular the Golden Bamboo, Bambusa vulgaris, originally of Asian origin (Williams
1949; Purseglove 1972). The Swahili name for this and related African plants can be
traced back to proto-Sabaki *mulanzi and even further back into the Bantu past
(Nurse and Hinnebusch 1993). The use of the term mwanzi, ‘bamboo’, to describe a
particular kind of leopard is probably analogous to its use in chelonian
terminologies. The name kasa mwanzi is used by fishermen in both northern and
southern Unguja (as well as on Pemba) to describe one or more species / variety of
sea turtle (the primary referent of kasa being the Green Turtle, Chelonia mydas). The
perceived similarity with bamboo probably relates to the colour and pattern of the
sea turtles’ scales, and presumably much the same logic applies in the case of
leopards. As it happens, some turtles are also compared directly with leopards,
ng’amba chui being the name for a particular type of Hawksbill Turtle, Eretmochelys
imbricata, while the name kasa chui (species unidentified) has also been recorded
(Clark and Khatib 1993).

(chui) unyasi (9/10) [Muyuni B, Pete, Uzi]

The name chui unyasi, usually abbreviated to unyasi, has a relatively restricted
distribution to the west and south-west of Jozani Forest. It was elicited from all three
of our informants in Pete, two of whom contrasted it with kisutu, and one with kisutu
and mwanzi. In Muyuni B one informant contrasted unyasi with konga, while in Uzi
another informant differentiated it from both mkonge and kisutu. There was general
agreement that unyasi was the smallest of the types, although one informant
described it as long in the body. There was also some measure of agreement about
the description of its coat: yellowish; more yellow than the larger type and with
smaller spots; red, with small (i.e. smaller than otherwise) white patches; reddish,
the colour of (dry) grass; darker in colour than the larger variety, with no white
showing. Given the comparatively broad and overlapping reference of Swahili
colour terms, these descriptions seem to reflect a pattern in which the leopard’s
rosettes have disintegrated to an even greater degree than in the larger type(s),
apparently a function of smaller body size.
The primary meaning of unyasi (11/10), usually heard in the plural (nyasi), is
‘coarse grass’, including the dry grass sometimes used in thatching. It derives from a

proto-Sabaki root, *lunyasi, with a long Bantu history (Nurse and Hinnebush 1993).
Its application to this type of leopard would appear to be based upon similarity of
colour, perhaps comparing the tawny patches on the leopard’s coat with the colour
of dry grass or straw, a connection made explicit by one of our informants. The
motivation behind the name chui unyasi is therefore probably parallel to that behind
the name chui mwanzi, albeit describing a different type.

(chui) uwanda (9/10) [Kizimkazi, Muyuni A and B, Uzi]

This term overlaps with chui unyasi in its use and distribution, extending further to
the south-west of the island. Selkow (1995), who recorded uwanda as a leopard name
only in Muyuni A and B, assumed it to be synonymous with konge, which he classed
as intermediate in size between the other two types he recognised. However, he was
unable to elicit a coherent description of this type, and our own evidence indicates
that he was mistaken in collapsing uwanda and konge into one and ascribing an
intermediate position to either of them. One informant, from Uzi, contrasted chui
uwanda with kisutu, describing it as smaller and shorter, with small red patches on its
coat. He emphasised that leopards with this description were fully mature, and that
the difference between the chui uwanda and kisutu was not one of sex. A second
informant, from Dimbani, Kizimkazi, contrasted chui uwanda with chui asili,
describing the former as small and red in colour. These are broadly similar to the
descriptions of chui unyasi, and we can assume that informants were referring to
much the same combination of features.
In its primary sense uwanda is a geographical term referring to Unguja’s
bushed grassland, ‘small areas of thicket in grassland’, some of which may be
natural and others which are the result of human agricultural activities in the past
(Williams et al. 1996). Uwanda is apparently a loanword into the southern Swahili
dialects of Unguja (and Pemba) from northern Swahili, ultimately deriving from
proto-Sabaki *luWanja (with the reconstructed meaning of ‘open area’) and an earlier
Bantu source (Derek Nurse, personal communication; Nurse and Hinnebusch 1993).
It is not immediately clear why the smaller leopards should be named after the
uwanda: presumably either because they are thought to frequent these areas, or in
recognition of a similarity in colour between the leopards and the dominant
vegetation of this habitat (much as chui unyasi is named for the grass it resembles).

futizi (5/6?) [Jambiani]

This term was recorded from a single informant in Jambiani, who described futizi as
a leopard more gracile than the robust and large kisutu, but less so than the tall and
slender konge. The etymology of futizi is obscure.

kariuki (5/6) [Charawe]

This term was elicited from a hunter in Charawe, who contrasted kariuki with
bungala, describing it as a leopard which was small or medium in size, and patterned
with patches of red, rather like the skin of the African Rock Python, Python sebae.

Although he noted that leopard keepers prefer the larger, longer and sleeker bungala,
he claimed also to have seen a kariuki with its keeper. Although SIH knew of the
term bungala (as a name for large Bush Pigs), he had never heard of kariuki, and
neither had anyone else we asked. The unusual shape of kariuki, including the initial
element ka-, which is the class 13 prefix (with diminutive sense) in many East African
Bantu languages (excluding Swahili), suggests that this is a recent loanword from a
mainland language (compare the well-known Kikuyu personal name, Kariuki).

kichigi (7/8) [Makunduchi, Unguja Ukuu, Zanzibar town]

Selkow (1995) recorded kichigi as a Makunduchi name for the type of leopard
otherwise known as kisutu, describing it as the shortest variety, with a
predominantly yellowish coat. Although he was right in identifying the provenance
of this term, he was wrong in identifying it with the kisutu. Both of our informants
from Kajengwa, Makunduchi, contrasted kichigi with konge (in one case with two
varieties of konge). One of these informants described the kichigi as short and red in
colour, with no patches of white, while the other described it simply as small and
red. The latter recalled killing four vichigi on different occasions: one of these was
male, one female, and the other two unsexed. SIH likewise contrasted kichigi (small)
and mkonge (large), adding mwanzi as a third type differentiated by its colour. A
fourth informant, a relatively young man from Tindini, Unguja Ukuu, contrasted
kichigi with kisutu and a third type which he could not name. He described the
kichigi as small, short and very fierce, coloured black and white with no yellow.
These various descriptions, especially those from Makunduchi, put kichigi in the
same general category as chui unyasi and chui uwanda.
According to SIH, kichigi and mkonge are also applied to Bush Pigs,
Potamochoerus porcus, the former to small pigs and the latter (like bungala) to large
males and females. The greater abundance of pigs, which provides hunters with
more frequent opportunities to distinguish between them, gives the impression that
these terms, including kichigi, were applied to pigs before they were applied to
leopards. This need not necessarily be the case, however, as an examination of the
probable origin of the name kichigi indicates.
The Standard Swahili-English Dictionary defines chigi as ‘the name of a small
yellow bird’ (Johnson 1939). On Pemba island chigi (and its cognate shigi) is the
cover term for a number of different species of small passerine, including the Olive
Sunbird, Nectarinia olivacea (chigi-asali), the Pemba White-eye, Zosterops senegalensis
ssp. vaughani (chigi-manjano), and the Black and White Mannikin, Lonchura bicolor,
and Bronze Mannikin, L. cucullata (both called chigi-tongo). It also appears as an
element in a name for the Zitting Cisticola, Cisticola juncidis (kichonga-chigi)
(Koenders 1992; scientific nomenclature modified with reference to Britton [ed.]
1980). Unfortunately we have less information on the referents of chigi on Unguja.
The Kamusi ya Kiswahili Sanifu (Taasisi ya Uchunguzi wa Kiswahili 1981) repeats the
unhelpful definition given by Johnson (1939), but also gives chozi as a synonym for
chigi. Chozi is the common cover term for sunbirds: the Olive Sunbird (see above)
and the Collared Sunbird, Anthrepetes collari, are the only ones present on Unguja
which might be described as ‘yellow’. Maimu (1982), however, gives chigi as the

Swahili name for the Yellow-fronted Canary, Serinus mozambicus. This bird is
relatively uncommon in the wild on Unguja, but is a popular cage-bird in Zanzibar
town (Pakenham 1979).
Whichever of these species is called chigi on Unguja, the bird name is
probably the source of kichigi, meaning ‘chigi-like’, as applied to both small pigs and
leopards. The obvious point of comparison is small size. Coloration provides an
additional point of resemblance between at least some of these birds, with their
yellow (breast) feathers, and more deeply coloured variants of the Zanzibar Leopard.
This increases the probability that kichigi was originally coined to describe small
leopards rather than small pigs, though the contrary thesis cannot be entirely ruled

kisutu (7/8) [Dimani, Jambiani, Jozani, Kitogani, Muungoni, Pete, Unguja
sutu (5/6?) [Kitogani]

kisutu (and sutu, used with emphatic sense by one informant) was elicited more
frequently than any other name for a variety of leopard. It appears to be widely
used by hunters in the south of the island, though not in the Makunduchi area.
Informants offered the following descriptions of the kisutu:

- different in colour - with black and yellow spots - from other (unnamed)
types (Dimani)

- large and robust in contrast to the tall and slender konge, futizi being
intermediate between the two (Jambiani)

- coloured like ngawa, the African Civet (Viverra civetta), with black
predominating (Jozani)

- coloured black and yellow, in contrast to the black and white konge, which is
also longer and taller: although smaller than the konge its skin has a better
market, because of its better colour. Many visutu, according to this informant,
are females, and he has seen them most often between Kitogani and Paje

- showing more white than the konge, whose spots reduce the areas of white
background colour (Muungoni)

- large and yellow in contrast to the smaller and darker unyasi, which has no
white patches (Pete)

- with large patches of colour and black stripes “like a zebra”, contrasting
with both the yellowish unyasi and mwanzi, which has smaller marks (Pete)

- distinct (though he could not specify how) from the unyasi, which is red with
small white patches (Pete)

- tall, long and yellow, with largish black spots, in contrast to kichigi, which is
small, short, very fierce and all black and white with no yellow colouring
(Unguja Ukuu)

- the fiercest type, with large spots of every colour, smaller than the sisal
leaf-coloured mkonge and larger than the reddish coloured unyasi (Uzi)

- larger, whiter and with bigger patches of colour than chui uwanda, which is
shorter and redder in colour. visutu, which may be either male or female, are
stronger and more often kept by leopard keepers (Uzi)

In so far as these different descriptions overlap, they suggest a good-sized
leopard whose coat conforms more closely than that of other types to the typical
mainland pattern, possessing relatively well-spaced rosettes or spot-like
condensations of the sane on a yellowish ground (which is neither as pale as on
some of the larger leopards nor has the tawny colour of smaller leopards in which
the rosettes have further disintegrated). Marshall (1994) was led to describe the
kisutu in similar terms, though he only contrasted it with the larger konge. Selkow
(1995) also referred to the predominantly yellowish background colour of the kisutu,
though, as already noted above, he confused it with the smaller kichigi.
The name kisutu has an interesting origin. Its most likely source is the
Southern Cushitic language Dahalo, or rather an earlier form thereof. In
contemporary Dahalo the name shúti refers to the Spotted Hyena, Crocuta crocuta
(Ehret et al. 1989), and can be traced back to a proto-Southern Cushitic root which
may have originally referred to the Hunting Dog, Lycaon pictus, or another spotted or
splotched carnivore (Ehret 1980). Dahalo is spoken by a diminishing number of
former hunter-gatherers in the north of the Tana River delta in Kenya. They are
close neighbours of the Swahili-speaking peoples of the Lamu archipelago, and live
at the southern end of the stretch of coast on which the original Swahili homeland
was most probably located, around one and half thousand years ago.
On present evidence it is not clear at what stage the Dahalo term was
borrowed into Swahili: whether before or after the breakup of the proto-Swahili
community into northern and southern dialect groups. It may be that kisutu (root
-sutu) was a secondary borrowing into one or more of the southern dialects on
Unguja from one of the northern dialects of Swahili. It is also difficult to say at what
stage in its history the meaning of the term shifted, and in which direction. One
possibility is that shúti originally meant ‘leopard’ in Dahalo, and was borrowed by
Swahili before its meaning changed. The simplest hypothesis, however, is that the
meaning of the Dahalo term has remained constant, and only changed after it had
been adopted into Swahili. The shift in reference from ‘spotted hyena’ to ‘spotted
leopard’ would have had an obvious motivation in the Unguja context, where
Spotted Hyenas do not exist. This might also explain the otherwise unusual
assignment of the Swahili name to the noun class pair 7/8, suggesting that the

original sense of kisutu was ‘(the leopard which is) like a spottted hyena’. The
Zanzibar Leopard differs from its mainland cousins in the spot-like condensation of
its rosettes, and its coat can therefore be compared more readily with that of the
Spotted Hyena. It is not difficult to imagine that this was precisely the connection
drawn by the early Swahili settlers on Unguja island when they first encountered its
distinctive leopard.
Kisutu is also the common name of a particular design of kanga, the
rectangular pieces of cloth worn by women. Most Swahili speakers, on Pemba as
well as Unguja, know this name, but have no idea that it also refers to leopards. A
woman informant in Ndudu even described the leopard she called mwanzi as being
coloured like the kisutu kanga, pointing to an example which was green and yellow.
Closer examination, however, indicates that the kanga was originally named after the
leopard, and not vice versa. The defining feature of the kisutu type of kanga is a
central pattern of two alternating motifs: flower-heads and crosses or plus signs,
variously elaborated, but unbroken by other motifs. The colours of the kanga are
incidental to this design. While the Standard Swahili dictionary suggests a rather
dubious Arabic etymology for kisutu (Johnson 1939), it seems more likely that this
kind of kanga was named after its schematic resemblance to the pattern on a
leopard’s coat, much as the name kanga itself is derived from the similarity of early
prints to the spotted plumage of guineafowls (on Unguja the Helmeted Guineafowl,
Numida meleagris, and the Kenya Crested Guineafowl, Guttera pucherani, both called
kanga). According to one informant, a pair of kanga with the kisutu design is
traditionally given to a bride by her parents, to be worn during her wedding. The
origin of this practice, said to be confined to Unguja, is obscure, and though there is
no explicit reference to leopards or leopard-skins in this context, it is tempting to
suggest that some kind of connection, historical or otherwise, is implied. It might be
added here that kanga with a more obvious resemblance to leopard-skins - for
example with swirling and overlapping red and black feathery motifs on a yellow
ground - are actually called chui, ‘leopard’, but have no ceremonial significance.
The term kisutu also occurs in the saying ‘nimeona kisutu, mwenye kisutu
sijamwona’, which roughly translates as ‘I have seen a mark, but not the marker’.
This expression might be used, for example, when seeing betel which someone has
spat out, but not the person who did the spitting. This usage probably represents a
further shift in the meaning of kisutu, from spotted leopard to a spot, sign or mark in
general, though the extended sense appears only to have been retained in this
particular saying. Given the elusiveness of the Zanzibar leopard, and even more so
of their alleged keepers, this expression seems doubly appropriate (‘I have seen a
spotted leopard, but not its owner’!).

koko (5/6) [Paje]

A single informant in Paje used the name koko to describe leopards which are small
and short in the back, in contrast to the long mkonge. He noted, however, that
leopards cannot be readily distinguished on the basis of their colour or build: colour
may vary that of the earth a leopard has been rolling in, and either koko or mkonge

might be stout or thin, depending on how it had been feeding. The spot pattern, he
added, is also very variable.
koko is more usually used to describe feral dogs, mbwa koko in the usage of SIH
and other informants. Chum (1994) defines koko as a ‘small and thin’ kind of dog, ‘a
dog of inferior quality’, in the Makunduchi dialect of Kae, adding a second definition
of koko as ‘dirt’. The Standard Swahili-English Dictionary records the primary meaning
of koko in this context as ‘bush, undergrowth, jungle, such as in a mangrove swamp’,
linking it with mkoko, the name of a common mangrove species, Rhizophora mucronata
(Johnson 1939). The same stem is evident in Sangu ilixoxo, ‘wild animal (in general)’
(Walsh 1985). Sangu is a member of the Southern Highlands group of East African
Bantu languages, and the occurrence of the same root in cognate form in that area
suggests that koko is an inherited Swahili term, originally meaning either ‘bush, wild
place’ or ‘wild animal’. However, given the limited use of this as a leopard name on
Unguja, it is probable that it has been adopted directly from koko in its locally
restricted sense of ‘wild dog’. Feral dogs are typically underfed and scrawny, hence
the ‘small and thin’ of Chum’s definition and the ready application of this term (in at
least this single case) to leopards of unimpressive size.

konge (5/6) [Jambiani, Kitogani, Makunduchi, Muungoni]
konga (5/6) [Muyuni B]
mkonge (3/4) [Kitogani, Paje, Uzi, Zanzibar town]

konge and mkonge are cognate terms, and konga presumably an idiosyncratically
skewed version of the same. As the name(s) for a recognisable kind of leopard, we
recorded them almost as frequently as kisutu, over a large area of southern Unguja,
which included Makunduchi and Paje, but excluded Jozani, Pete and Unguja Ukuu.
Informants provided the following definitions:


- tall and slender, contrasting with the large and robust kisutu and
intermediate futizi (Jambiani)

- tall and long, predominantly black and white and colour, in contrast to the
short, black and yellow kisutu. According to this informant, who had seen a
male konge killed at Manyuni (on the coral rag on the way to Paje) in 1989,
they are most often seen between Kitogani and Charawe / Ukongoroni
(whereas kisutu are more common due east of Kitogani). He noted, however,
that there is nothing fixed about these types, which can interbreed (Kitogani)

- long, colour a mixture of red, black and a little white, in contrast to the short
and red kichigi, which has no white on its coat (Makunduchi)

- this informant described two kinds of konge: (a) black with large spots; and
(b) white with small black spots. He contrasted both of these with the small
and red kichigi (Makunduchi)

- long, with spots which reduce the amount of white background, whereas
kisutu shows more white (Muungoni)


- big, with more and larger spots than the small and yellower unyasi. konga
are more common than unyasi, and a lot of those killed have been males
(Muyuni B)


- long, coloured yellow with some white, in contrast to the (unnamed) short
type, which is bluish in colour (Kitogani)

- long in contrast to koko, which is smaller and short in the back (Paje)

- the largest of three types, coloured like a mkonge (sisal) leaf, whereas kisutu
has large spots of every colour and unyasi is reddish, coloured like (dry) grass

- large, in contrast to the smaller kichigi and differently coloured mwanzi (SIH,
Zanzibar town)

The common feature in these descriptions is that konge / mkonge is always
taken to be larger (taller and / or longer) than the types it is contrasted with. There
also seems to be some agreement that its coat has a paler background colour than
other leopards, though this ‘white’ ground may in some cases be largely obscured by
densely packed black spots. Marshall’s (1994) informants led him to believe that
konge are ‘almost all black with only very slight indications of spots present’. This
view was not shared by most of our own informants, though they did agree with
Marshall’s sources that the konge is longer and taller than the kisutu (in cases where
kisutu was recognised as a contrasting type). There is clearly no basis for Selkow’s
(1995) hypothesis that konge describes a melanistic leopard, and it remains doubtful
whether such ‘black panthers’ are to be found on Unguja at all.
According to SIH, mkonge is also used as a name for large male and female
Bush Pigs, Potamochoerus porcus. As in the case of kichigi (applied to small pigs), it is
not immediately clear which mammal, leopard or pig, the term originally referred to,
though mkonge is evidently more widely understood as a name for pigs. One of our
informants (in Uzi) suggested that some leopards are called mkonge because of the
resemblance between the background colour of their coats and the leaves of the
plant(s) with the same name. mkonge (3/4) is the common Swahili name for a
number of different plants, especially members of the Agavaceae family. On Unguja
its referents include Canthium bibracteatum (Siex 1995), Sansevieria kirkii (Williams
1949), and cultivated sisal, Agave sisalana, the leaves of which provide a
light-coloured fibre. At first sight this seems to be a plausible derivation, if only

because it parallels the plant-derived etymologies of two other leopard names, chui
mwanzi and chui unyasi.
A more likely source, however, is the name for another species of carnivore,
which appears in the Swahili dictionaries as konje, though no animal with this name
has been recorded on Unguja. The Standard Swahili-English Dictionary gives konje, ‘a
small animal like a fox’, as well as the compound form kalakonje, ‘a kind of wild cat’,
a definition it shares with kala (Johnson 1939). The Kamusi ya Kiswahili Sanifu defines
konje as ‘a small animal like a fox / jackal (mbweha)’, and also refers the reader to kala
(‘a small animal with a body like a large cat or cane-rat, which is very fond of eating
chicks’), kalakonje (not defined), and njuzi (for which there is no separate entry)
(Taasisi ya Uchunguzi wa Kiswahili 1981). Maimu (1982) does not record konje, but
has kala as a name for the Small-spotted Genet, Genetta genetta, and suzi describing
the Serval, Felis serval (1982). Variants of njuzi / suzi, with the same or similar
meaning, are widespread in East African Bantu, and need not concern us further
here (cf. terms recorded in Swynnerton 1946). Variants of kala are also widespread
on the mainland, where they mainly refer to one or other species of mongoose, and
appear to be linked to a reconstructed proto-Rift Southern Cushitic root (*kilambay-,
‘small long-tailed carnivore sp.’: Ehret 1980). In Giriama, one of the Mijikenda
dialects on the Kenyan coast, the name kala has been identified with the White-tailed
Mongoose, Ichneumia albicauda (Costich 1977). In Rabai, another Mijikenda dialect,
kalakonje has been described as the ‘same species as the gala [sic], but somewhat
larger and different in colour’, with a white body resembling Sansevieria fibres (Krapf
and Rebmann 1887).
This brings us back to the etymology which was presented earlier. If the folk
etymology recorded by Krapf and Rebmann were correct, it is extremely unlikely
that the qualifier konje would be detached from the compound and applied to the
description of a quite different animal. The dictionaries suggest the identification of
Swahili konje with a kind of fox or jackal: Swynnerton speculated that this may be
the Bat-eared Fox, Otocyon megalotis (1946). Given that this is the only fox-like
mammal present in East Africa, and the only member of the family Canidae which
does not have a well-known Swahili name, this speculation may well be justified.
There are, of course, no Bat-eared Foxes, or indeed truly wild canids of any
description, on Unguja. The motivation for applying the inherited name for the
Bat-eared Fox to a kind of leopard would have been much the same as that in the
case of kisutu, already discussed above. The Bat-eared Fox has a relatively uniform
dark grey-yellowish coat, and by lending its name to leopards without the
characteristic pattern of rosettes, the Swahili settlers of Unguja may have been
highlighting the contrast between this type and the more obviously spotted varieties
of the Zanzibar Leopard.

ngawa (9/10) [Ndudu]

Only one informant, a woman in Ndudu, gave ngawa as the name for a type of
leopard, contrasting it with the longer and yellower mwanzi. She described the
ngawa leopard as patterned and coloured like the African Civet, Viverra civetta, the
common name of which on Unguja is ngawa. The further etymology of this name,

which is sometimes heard in the compound form fungo ngawa, is obscure. fungo is an
inherited term (proto-Sabaki *mfungo, from an earlier Bantu root: Nurse and
Hinnebusch 1993), variants of which are usually applied to the African Civet. On
Unguja (and Pemba), however, its primary reference is to the introduced and
somewhat smaller Javan Civet, Viverricula indica. Hunters admit that it is possible to
mistake the African Civet for a leopard, especially if sighted fleetingly, in poor light,
and / or by an inexperienced observer. The use of its name for smaller leopards
provides another illustration of the ease with which animal names can be transferred
from one to another, though in this case the novel usage does not appear to have a
wide currency.

3. Glossary of Euphemisms and Other Expressions

bange (5/6?) [Jambiani]

This term was given as a euphemism for ‘leopard’ by an elderly informant in
Jambiani. Its linguistic origin is obscure: bange is also recorded as the name of an
unidentified kind of fish (Johnson 1939; Taasisi 1981), but it is not clear how this
might connect, if at all, with its use as a euphemism for leopards.

bwana mkubwa (1/2) [Muyuni B]

According to the single informant in Muyuni B who reported this expression, it was
once used by leopard keepers when calling or referring to their kept male leopards.
The literal meaning of bwana mkubwa is ‘big man’ or ‘boss’, a phrase which can be
used either respectfully or with a touch of irony, depending upon the context. bwana
on its own means ‘sir’, and by extension ‘husband’: mkubwa, from the root -kubwa, is
a qualifying adjective meaning ‘big’ (or in this context ‘important’). The linguistic
history of both of these terms is uncertain.

chuma (7/8) [Makunduchi]

A single informant in Kajengwa, Makunduchi, gave this term as a euphemism for
leopards. The primary meaning of chuma in Swahili is ‘iron’, which can be traced
back to proto-Sabaki *kyuma and an earlier Common Bantu form with the same or
similar reference (Nurse and Hinnebusch 1993). chuma is also used figuratively of
people in expressions such as ‘chuma cha mtu’, ‘a strong, tough-minded person’ (cf.
Johnson 1939). This last usage is obviously the immediate source of the euphemism,
which refers to the strength of leopards, Unguja’s primary carnivores and occasional
predators of humans as well as their livestock.

dume (uyo) (5/6) [Muyuni B, Pete]

The use of this expression as a euphemism for leopards is perfectly transparent.
Swahili dume refers primarily to male animals or plants, and in the case of animals

may also be used to suggest their superior size and strength (cf. Johnson 1939). It
derives ultimately from Common Bantu via proto-Sabaki *ilume (Nurse and
Hinnebusch 1993). According to the informant from Pete who gave dume as a
euphemism for leopards, it usually occurs in the phrase ‘dume uyo!’, ‘that male (i.e.
large, dangerous leopard)!’. Our informant in Muyuni B reported the same phrase,
but said that it was once used by leopard keepers to refer to their kept male
leopards, in the same way that bwana mkubwa was.

keke (5/6) [Kitogani, Muungoni, Makunduchi]

This term was elicited in two different areas, Makunduchi and Kitogani /
Muungoni, and has possibly spread to the latter from the former. Both of our
informants in Kajengwa, on the northern side of Makunduchi, gave keke as a
euphemism for leopards. One informant said specifically that it is used to conceal
the subject of discussion from women and children. The other Kajengwa informant
suggested that this euphemism has its origin in the word makeke, which means
‘nervousness’ in the local dialect (the equivalent in Standard Swahili is wasiwasi), a
state which would afflict anyone frightened by the sight of a leopard. keke (‘leopard’)
and makeke (‘uncertainty’) are listed under a single entry in Chum’s (1994)
vocabulary of Kae, the Makunduchi dialect, and the derivation is certainly plausible.
The etymology of the root -keke is, however, obscure, and on the basis of existing
evidence we cannot rule out the possibility that semantic innovation took place in
the opposite direction (deriving makeke from keke, the description of a state of fear
from the name of a fearful animal).
While our Kitogani informant gave keke simply as a euphemism for leopards
in general, the much younger hunter from Muungoni described keke as the largest
and longest of the three varieties of leopard which he had heard about. He was,
however, unable to name the two smaller types, and had some difficulty in recalling
keke itself. It seems most likely that he had only remembered the euphemism, and
incorrectly elevated this to the status of a named variety. Other hunters in this
general area did not volunteer keke as a euphemism (or named variety), and this
reinforces the thesis that this term has its origin in Makunduchi and the far
south-east of the island.

masharubu (-/6) [Uzi]

Only one informant, a retired hunter in Uzi, gave masharubu as a euphemism for
leopards, noting that in context its referent was unmistakeable. sharubu, plural
masharubu, is the Standard Swahili term for a moustache, and with reference to
leopards might be better translated as ‘whiskers’. As well as having a restricted
distribution, this euphemism is probably of relatively recent historical origin, sharubu
being a loanword from Arabic (Johnson 1939).

mfalme (1/2) [Kitogani, Muungoni, Pete]

A number of informants used this term to signal the preeminence of leopards among
Unguja’s wild fauna, rather than as a euphemism to avoid direct reference to
leopards. The primary meaning of mfalme is ‘king, ruler’: it is presumably derived
from an earlier Swahili form *mufalume (hence the personal name Mfaume), the
provenance of which is unknown. The expression ‘chui ni mfalme’, ‘the leopard is the
king’, was used by hunters on a number of occasions. This usage seems to centre in
the area to the south of Jozani Forest, in other words close to the heart of the Kitanzi
campaign. One informant in Kitogani stated that “chui alikuwa ni mfalme kwa
Zanzibar”, “the leopard was Zanzibar’s ruler”, while another said that in the past
leopards were “ufalme wa kiswahili”, “(traditional) Swahili royalty”. An informant in
Pete, referring to the historical taboo upon eating leopard meat, commented that
“humli mfalme”, “you don’t eat the king”. It is tempting to read these statements as
verbal vestiges of a forgotten royal symbolism: unfortunately we have no other
evidence to suggest that leopards played such a symbolic role in Unguja’s
pre-Omani polities, though it is a possibility which cannot be ruled out. Otherwise it
might be noted that at least one former Sultan of Zanzibar is said to have
participated actively in leopard hunts.

mirime (-/4?) [Jambiani]

This euphemism was elicited from the same elderly informant in Jambiani who gave
bange. It is possibly related to the Standard Swahili-English Dictionary’s mirimo, ‘the
secrets of the medicine men, wizards, &c.’ (Johnson 1939), referring to leopards as
the instruments of wachawi, witches. The etymology of mirimo is obscure.

nyolopa (9/10) [Makunduchi]

The only record of this term is in Chum’s (1994) vocabulary of Kae, the Makunduchi
dialect, where it is glossed simply as ‘leopard’ and exemplified in the phrase ‘nyolopa
kanafugwa’, ‘the leopard is being kept’. None of our own informants recognised this
term, including two hunters from Kajengwa in north Makunduchi. Nonetheless, we
take Chum’s record as reliable, though it is not clear from his entry whether the term
nyolopa should be understood as the name of a variety of leopard, a name for kept
leopards, a euphemism (like his keke), or a combination of these (perhaps a name
which became a euphemism and subsequently lost its currency?).
Linguistically nyolopa is possibly the most unexpected term in our list of
leopard names and euphemisms. Its nearest linguistic relatives would appear to be
terms of similar shape and related meaning in southern Tanzania. *inyalupala is the
reconstructed term for ‘lion’ in proto-Southern Highlands: Southern Highlands
being the name for a group of Bantu languages, including Hehe, Bena, Sangu, Wanji,
Kinga, Pangwa and Manda, spoken to the north and east of Lake Malawi (Nurse
1988). Likewise the regular reflex of the inherited form in contemporary languages
in this group is inyalupala (cf. Swynnerton 1946). Derek Nurse (personal
communication) has also drawn attention to the existence of another parallel form,

nyalubwe, also meaning ‘lion’, in Mwera, a little-known language spoken by about
3,000 people in the vicinity of Mbamba Bay on the eastern shore of Lake Malawi.
This term has also been reported from the other side of Lake Malawi: according to
the big game hunter Peter Hathaway Capstick nyalubwe was his nickname in the
Nyanja language of Zambia, in this case actually meaning ‘leopard’ (Capstick 1983).
As Nurse points out, it is difficult to explain the relationship between these
terms: they are obviously similar but not cognate, so have presumably spread as
loans from one language to another and / or from a lost fourth source. The apparent
antiquity of the Southern Highlands form, and the physical proximity of Mwera,
suggest an origin in this general area. However, while it is easy to explain a
semantic shift from ‘lion’ to ‘leopard’ following the arrival of the term on Unguja
island (where leopards are the largest carnivores), it is not very easy to see how it
might have reached there, and Makunduchi in particular. One possibility is that it
was brought back along early trade routes from the coast into the interior, from
Kilwa to the Southern Highlands and Lake Malawi region, and was later carried
over to Makunduchi from Kilwa or elsewhere on the coast. It seems unlikely to have
been brought to Zanzibar in the nineteenth century: most loans from the interior in
this period can be found in the Unguja dialect and its derivative, Standard Swahili.
In the absence of corroborating evidence, however, this is no more than speculation.

shambi-shambi (5/6?) [Pete]

This term was given by a single informant at Pete, who suggested that both
shambi-shambi and shwambu were the names of varieties of leopard rather than
euphemisms as such. He described shambi-shambi as referring to a leopard similar in
appearance to ngawa, the African Civet, Viverra civetta. The origin of this term is

shwambu (5/6) [Jambiani, Kitogani, Pete]

This was the most frequently reported euphemism (followed by keke). It was elicited
from all three of our informants in Pete, as well as one from Kitogani and one from
Jambiani, suggesting that its widest currency is in the former village. One Pete
hunter specified that the name shwambu is used when a leopard is heard calling and
is presumed to be dangerous. The youngest and least knowledgeable of the Pete
hunters, who knew the name kisutu but could not provide a description of it, gave
shwambu (and also shambi-shambi, see above) as the name of leopards which are very
long and have clearly defined black patches and larger areas of white than others.
The balance of evidence suggests that he was confused. Nonetheless, the etymology
of shwambu is unknown, and it may be that it originally referred to a particular
variety of leopard.

twiga (9/10) [Kitogani]

According to the single Kitogani informant who gave this term, twiga was
introduced as a euphemism for leopard meat when hunters began eating it in the

course of the Kitanzi campaign in the 1960s. twiga is Standard Swahili for ‘giraffe’,
deriving from the reconstructed proto-Sabaki *ntwiga and an earlier East African
Bantu form with the same meaning (Nurse and Hinnebusch 1993). There are, of
course, no giraffes on Unguja. It is not clear what led to the adoption of ‘giraffe’ as a
euphemism for ‘leopard meat’: one possible motivation, in addition to the
humorous image which it conjures up, may have been a perceived similarity in the
colour and marking of the two animals. Given that the consumption of leopard meat
was previously unheard of and remained tabooed to many hunters, it is not
surprising that those at the physical centre of the Kitanzi campaign should have felt
the need to conceal their participation in this novel practice from their fellow
villagers, including suspected leopard keepers.


1. Photograph of a leopard trap in
Chwaka, by Pakenham (1947).

2. Photograph of a leopard trap, in
Zanzibar Natural History Museum.

3. Representation of Zanzibar leopard (top) and typical East African leopard
(bottom), by Kingdon (1989:27). Note small size of spots and rosettes on Zanzibar
Figure not available for this PDF.

4-6. Mounted Zanzibar
leopard in Zanzibar
Natural History
Museum. This leopard
was shot at Kisakasaka
by the Hon. W.
Grazebrook, M.C. No
year is given.

7-9. Fragment of a leopard pelt,
purportedly from a Zanzibar
leopard. Pelt in the possession of a
Zanzibari hunter.
Original report included two
additional photographs.

10-12. Pugmarks that Kenyan naturalist and hunter, A. Archer, identified as
belonging to leopard. Found on Wangwani path, northern Jozani Forest, in June
1996. The middle photograph shows two overlapping prints.
Figures not available for this PDF.

The scarred knee of a Zanzibari who as a
boy was attacked by a leopard, described
on p. 8.
This photograph not in the original

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