Panthera pardus adersi Pocock, 1932

Zanzibar leopard



Taxonomy & Nomenclature

Synonym/s: Felis pardus adersi Pocock, 1932


Conservation Status

Invalid (synonym)

Last record: 1980's?

IUCN RedList status: synonym of Panthera pardus pardus


The last confirmed sighting of a Zanzibar leopard by a scientist was in the 1980's. Since then many leopards have purportedly been killed by villagers, as recently as 1996 according to some, or even more recently. In addition to this reports of scats and the killing of livestock by leopards persisted into the 21st century. However, none of these post-1980's reports have been confirmed, and given the relatively small size of its island habitat the subspecies is almost certainly now (functionally) extinct.



Unguja Island, Zanzibar archipelago, Tanzania


Biology & Ecology




Holotype in the Natural History Museum, London


Mounted specimen (much faded) in the Zanzibar Museum


The Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology has two specimens (including MCZ 40953)


2 other preserved specimens exist in public institutions, with at least several other artifacts in private collections (but probably many, many more). See (Walsh & Goldman, 2008) for a complete inventory of all known specimens.






Original scientific description:

Pocock, Reginald I. (1932). The leopards of Africa. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London II 1932: 543-591.


Other references:

Archer, A. L. (1994). A Survey of Hunting Techniques and the Results Thereof on Two Species of Duiker and the Suni Antelopes in Zanzibar. FINNIDA / Forestry Sector, Commission for Natural Resources, Zanzibar, Tanzania.

Dobroruka, L. J. (1932?). Zur Verbreitung des ‘Sansibar-Leoparden’, Panthera pardus adersi Pocock. Zeitschrift fu¨r Sa¨ ugetierkunde 30, no. 1964 (1932): 1446.

Goldman, Helle V., and Walsh, Martin T. (1997). A Leopard in Jeopardy: An anthropological survey of practices and beliefs which threaten the survival of the Zanzibar leopard (Panthera pardus adersi). Forestry Technical Paper No. 63.

Goldman, Helle V. and Walsh, Martin T. (2002). Is the Zanzibar leopard (Panthera pardus adersi) extinct? Journal of East African Natural History 91(1/2): 15-25.

Goldman, Helle V. and Walsh, Martin T. (2003). Erratum: Is the Zanzibar leopard (Panthera pardus adersi) extinct? J. East Afr. Nat. Hist. 92(1/2): 4.

Goldman, Helle V. and Walsh, Martin T. (2007). Human-Wildlife Conflict, Unequal Knowledge and the Failure to Conserve the Zanzibar Leopard (Panthera pardus adersi). Poster presented to the Felid Biology and Conservation Conference, Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), University of Oxford, 17-21 September 2007.

Goldman, Helle V. and Martin T. Walsh. (2008). When Culture Threatens the Conservation of Biological Diversity: The Tragic Case of the Zanzibar Leopard (Panthera pardus adersi). Poster presented to Sustaining Cultural and Biological Diversity in a Rapidly Changing World: Lessons for Global Policy, Thirteenth Annual Symposium of the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History, New York, 2-5 April 2008.

Goldman, Helle V. and Martin T. Walsh. (2019). Classifying, Domesticating and Extirpating the Zanzibar Leopard, a Transgressive Felid. Norsk Antropologisk Tidsskrift 30(3-4): 205-219.

Hunter, L., Henschel, P. & Ray, J. C. (in press) Panthera pardus. The Mammals of Africa: carnivores, pangolins, rhinos, and equids. Academic Press, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Khamis, K. A. (1995). Report on the Status of Zanzibar Leopards from 15th Dec. 1994 to June 1995 in Different Times at Zanzibar. Unpublished certificate student’s dissertation, College of African Wildlife Management, Mweka, Tanzania. 9 pp.

Kingdon, Jonathan. (1989). Island Africa: The Evolution of Africa's Rarest Animals and Plants. Princeton: princeton University Press.

Marshall, Scott. (1994). The Status of the Zanzibar Leopard. SIT Tanzania & Commission for Natural Resources, Zanzibar. 17 pp.

Miththapala, Sriyanie, Seidensticker, John and O'Brien, Stephen J. (1996). Phylogeographic Subspecies Recognition in Leopards (Panthera pardus): Molecular Genetic Variation. Conservation Biology 10(4): 1115-1132.

Pakenham, R. H. W. (1984). The Mammals of Zanzibar and Pemba Islands. Harpenden: privately printed.

Prendergast ME, Rouby H, Punnwong P, Marchant R, Crowther A, Kourampas N, et al. (2016). Continental Island Formation and the Archaeology of Defaunation on Zanzibar, Eastern Africa. PLoS ONE 11(2): e0149565.

Rossi, L., Scuzzarella, C. M. and Angelici, F. M. (2020). Extinct or Perhaps Surviving Relict Populations of Big Cats: Their Controversial Stories and Implications for Conservation, pp. 393-417. In: Angelici F., Rossi L. (eds.). Problematic Wildlife II. Cham: Springer.

Selkow, Benjamin. (1995). A Survey of Villager Perceptions of the Zanzibar Leopard. SIT Tanzania & Commission for Natural Resources, Zanzibar/Student paper, SIT Study Abroad, Zanzibar.

Stein, A.B., Athreya, V., Gerngross, P., Balme, G., Henschel, P., Karanth, U., Miquelle, D., Rostro-Garcia, S., Kamler, J.F., Laguardia, A., Khorozyan, I. & Ghoddousi, A. 2016. Panthera pardus (errata version published in 2016). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T15954A102421779. Downloaded on 04 June 2018.

Stuart, Chris and Stuart, Tilde. (1997a). A Preliminary Faunal Survey of South-eastern Unguja (Zanzibar) with Special Emphasis on the Leopard Panthera pardus adersi. African-Arabian Wildlife Research Centre, Loxton, South Africa.

Stuart, Chris and Stuart, Tilde. (1997b). Zanzibar leopard – myth or reality? The Arc (Newsletter of the African-Arabian Wildlife Research Centre) 3:1-2.

Sun, Xin et al. (2023). A genomic exploration of the possible de-extirpation of the Zanzibar leopard. bioRxiv preprint.

Walsh, Martin T. (1996). The Zanzibar Leopard: An Anthropological Survey. End of Fieldwork Summary. Report to Jozani–Chwaka Bay Conservation Project, CARE Tanzania, and Commission for Natural Resources, Zanzibar.

Walsh, Martin T. and Goldman, Helle V. (2003a). The Zanzibar Leopard Between Science and Cryptozoology. Nature East Africa 33 (1/2): 14-16.

Walsh, Martin T. and Goldman, Helle V. (2003b). Killing the King: Political Imperatives and the Extermination of the Zanzibar Leopard. Paper presented to the International Symposium on Le Symbolisme des animaux: l’animal “clef de voûte” dans la tradition orale et les interactions homme-nature, Paris (Villejuif), France, 12-14 November 2003.

Walsh, Martin T. and Goldman, Helle. V. (2004). The Zanzibar Leopard – Dead or Alive? Tanzanian Affairs, 77: 20-23.

Walsh, Martin T. and Goldman, Helle V. (2007). Killing the king: the demonization and extermination of the Zanzibar leopard / Tuer le roi: la diabolisation et l’extermination du leopard de Zanzibar. In E. Dounias, E. Motte-Florac and M. Dunham (eds.) Le symbolisme des animaux: l’animal clef-de-voûte dans la tradition orale et les interactions homme–nature / Animal Symbolism: The ‘Keystone’ Animal in Oral Tradition and Interactions between Humans and Nature. Paris: IRD. 1133-1182.

Walsh, Martin T. and Goldman, Helle V. (2008). Updating the Inventory of Zanzibar Leopard Specimens. CAT News 49: 4-6. [extract available online, 2nd to 7th paragraphs:]

Walsh, Martin T. and Goldman, Helle V. (2012). Chasing imaginary leopards: science, witchcraft and the politics of conservation in Zanzibar. Journal of Eastern African Studies 6(4): 727-746.

Walsh, Martin T. and Goldman, Helle V. (2017). Cryptids and Credulity: The Zanzibar Leopard and Other Imaginary Beings, pp. 54-90. In: Hurn, Samantha (ed.). Anthropology and Cryptozoology: Exploring Encounters with Mysterious Creatures (Multispecies Encounters). Routledge. 246 pp.

Weier, Andrew. (2019). Leopards Are Good to Think With: Spotting the Zanzibar Leopard in Jozani Forest. Unpublished paper.


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