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Sunday, 10 June 2018

ZANZIBAR LEOPARD CAUGHT ON FILM?

Footage has emerged purporting to show the Zanzibar leopard in Jozani forest.


A brief night-time video clip that seems to be the climax of the premiere episode of the Animal Planet series, “Extinct or Alive,” shows a leopard walking through the forest in Jozani-Chwaka Bay National Park. The animal is in shot for little more than a couple of strides, before disappearing behind a tree.

If this can be verified, it’s a sensational discovery. Many authorities have presumed the Zanzibar leopard to have been extirpated, in spite of intriguing, yet inconclusive and indirect evidence to the contrary, as we have discussed in several publications.

The video was taken by the “Extinct or Alive” team, led by Forrest Galante, with a camera trap located on a tourist trail not far from the Visitor Centre at Jozani, in September 2017.

Release of this footage is generating quite a buzz on the internet and social media, and promises to kick off the new series to an impressive start. However, some commentators have wondered whether this might be a leopard from the African mainland, rather than its smaller Zanzibar cousin.

Watch the video posted by Inside Edition and form your own opinion: https://www.insideedition.com/zanzibar-leopard-captured-camera-despite-being-declared-extinct-43962

It can also be viewed directly on YouTube here (after the usual annoying ad): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpGqj8x39KA&t=24s.

We participated in the production by providing background material about leopards and other wildlife on the island, as well as the island’s history and culture. Travelling to Zanzibar a week in advance of the film crew, we scouted filming locations, lined up interviews, liaised with local forestry staff, and obtained access to recent photographs of of possible leopard pugmarks and leopard kills (goats).

In addition, we deployed 10 camera traps for the show in various locations, getting excellent video footage of some of Zanzibar’s small carnivores in the wild: the Zanzibar servaline genet (Genetta servalina archeri), the African palm civet (Nandinia binotata), the Zanzibar bushy-tailed mongoose (Bdeogale crassicauda tenuis). To our knowledge, none of these has been filmed on Unguja island before, so this was exciting.

Other wildlife that we filmed with the camera traps included Zanzibar Sykes monkey (Cercopithicus mitis albogularis), greater galago (Otolemur garnettii garnettii), the Zanzibar subspecies of the Tanzania dwarf coast galago (Galagoides zanzibaricus zanzibaricus), red bush squirrel (Paraxerus palliatus frerei), northern giant pouched rat (Cricetomys gambianus cosensi), Zanzibar four-toed sengi (Petrodromus tetradactylus zanzibaricus) and black and rufous sengi (Rhynchocyon petersi).

We look forward to seeing how much of the video we obtained during our two weeks of camera trapping has made it into the “Extinct or Alive” episode, and – even more – whether the show features more leopard footage.

The premiere of “Extinct or Alive” airs on Animal Planet in the US on Sunday, 10 June. You can view the trailer for the episode via The Hollywood Reporter here: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/animal-planet-greenlights-new-series-extinct-alive-1113638

Watch this space. Upcoming posts will consider various aspects of the episode, and our work in connection with it, in detail.  

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