Wildlife Biologists Captured the Zanzibar Leopard on Camera

Although the Zanzibar leopard was formally deemed extinct 25 years ago, the designation has come under scrutiny after a wildlife expert managed to photograph the elusive creature.

“Rare animals are hard to find. It is just difficult to find extinct species, according to scientist and tracker Forrest Galante, who spoke to InsideEdition.com. “I completely lost it with the realization that we had done the unthinkable and discovered an extinct animal, which the world had written off as being lost forever.”

For Galante’s latest show, “Extinct or Alive,” a Zanzibar leopard was briefly seen wandering into the field of view of a covert camera before vanishing back into the trees.

He said, “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.” “In a split second, everything I’ve been working on for years and years came to completion.”

Zanzibar Leopard – Taxonomy, History, Conservation & More

Zanzibar Leopard – Taxonomy, History, Conservation & More

After around two weeks of recording on the island, which is located off the east coast of Africa, Galante revealed that they were evaluating the tape when the breakthrough occurred.

They were about to delete the video because they thought there was nothing on it when suddenly, what he thought was the Zanzibar leopard came into view.

I went back to being a collegiate athlete,” he added, “I just erupted, I just started yelling. I was unable to restrain myself. I didn’t drink a lot or use drugs before, but I did pass out.

His numerous reactions were caught on camera by the show’s production team in the moments that followed the discovery: stunned silence, shocked sobs, and triumphant screams.

That is the subject of my performance, Galante remarked. It’s about hope, and that hope is that some of the things that humans have wiped off the face of the Earth might still be there.

He said that prior to their voyage, Galante had a list of numerous extinct animals he thought they might be able to uncover, depending on whether the habitat and food sources were still there for the animal to live.

Due to a widespread notion that the Zanzibar leopard was wicked, it was placed at the bottom of the list. According to local lore, the leopard from Zanzibar collaborated with the witch doctors.

Galante claimed that witchcraft-related cultural beliefs are widespread in the island nation. “Leopards were driven to extinction because they served the wicked purposes of witch doctors. When something unpleasant occurred, they would claim that the leopard was sent by the witch doctor to carry out their evil plans.”

Galante said that there was always a chance that if they saw a leopard, it would be of a different species because there is a local legend that African leopards from the mainland were brought to Zanzibar by witch doctors to continue their powers.

He clarified, however, that certain physical characteristics led him to think it might be a Zanzibar leopard. The predatory cat moved closer to the ground than a larger or more assured leopard species because to its smaller size, which is typical of the species given that its prey are smaller.

Its markings, which resemble a spot more so than a rosette, also indicated that he already owned the cat he was looking for. Galante remarked, “I’m the last one on Earth giving those species a chance. We shouldn’t give up on animals that other people may have written off or those we consider extinct, inconsequential, or extremely rare.

In an effort to prove the Zanzibar leopard’s continued existence, his team is working with local park officials to analyse DNA samples taken in the area.

Animal Planet’s “Extinct or Alive” airs June 10 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

Zanzibar Leopard Conservation

In portrayals of the Zanzibar leopard and its habits in rural Zanzibar, the idea that witches keep leopards and send them out to punish or kill locals predominates. This belief system goes into considerable detail about how witches trained leopards to carry out their evil intentions. Local farmers use them to justify the leopards’ predation and, more broadly, the fact that they are “out of place” close to farms and villages.

The habitat and prey base of leopards were damaged by population growth and agricultural expansion in the twentieth century. As tensions between people and leopards grew, a number of measures were taken to get rid of the threat that the felines posed. A witchfinder-led anti-witchcraft and leopard-killing crusade swept the entire island after the 1964 Zanzibar Revolution. Locally, it started. The Zanzibar leopard was labeled “vermin” and the effort’s long-term effects led to the extinction of the leopard species. In spite of this, there are still reports of leopard sightings, prompting some islanders to think that the leopard is still free to wander the region. By the middle of the 1990s, it was thought that the leopard population in Zanzibar vanished. There were claims that leopard scat had been discovered in 1997 and 2001, but no.

A leopard conservation initiative was started in 1997 by the CARE-funded Jozani-Chwaka Bay Conservation Project. Nevertheless, it was given up because there was no proof of the Zanzibar leopard. Some Zanzibar residents have recommended getting in touch with persons who claim to own leopards and asking if they would be open to show their pets to paying tourists. For a fee, tourists and researchers are occasionally brought on this expedition; nevertheless, none of these “kept leopard hunts” have yielded a lucky sighting of the true leopard.

The conflicting opinions on the Zanzibar leopard’s status and prospects for conservation have been noted by researchers as a problem.

During the production of Extinct or Alive, a camera trap was set up on Unguja Island in 2018 and captured footage of a leopard. Some authorities are skeptical about the video’s authenticity due to its hazy provenance and the fact that only a few trustworthy media outlets have covered it. To his credit, the author, Forrest Galante, has maintained the veracity of his assertion. Although it is clear from the video that a leopard is present, the pattern of rosettes is still unclear, which supports the theory that a wild African leopard was brought to Zanzibar. The only way to confirm the validity of this footage is to examine the DNA to see if the Zanzibar leopard was actually captured on camera.

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