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1900-1950: 
The Leopard Society in the Nimba Range and 
at the Kru coast 


Early 20th century, Sir Harry Johnston extensively described several cases of ritual killings and cannibalism and concluded that 'Cannibalism is widespread in interior Liberia between the Cavalla River and St. Paul's'. (Johnston, 1906: p. 952).

In the 1920s, on the eve of the arrival of the Firestone Rubber Company in Liberia, the international scientific Harvard African expedition visiting Liberia found that 'leopard men' or 'human leopards' still operate notably among the Mano and Gio (who live in the Nimba area bordering nowadays Guinea). It also reported that "The activities of this society or of similar groups of men have long existed, not only in Liberia, but also in parts of Sierra Leone and of the Ivory Coast. (....) The members are generally men, but women have also been known to be connected with the societies. (....). The society is greatly feared by some of the tribes. (....)." (Strong, 1930: p. 100). 

The way the 'human leopards' operated is described in detail. "When on killing expeditions the members dress themselves more or less in leopard skins (....). In some instances they carry a net which they throw about the body of the victim. They are armed with sharp iron hooks in the form of leopard's claws and teeth, and also carry short spears. (....). Usually the victim is attacked suddenly along the trail at night (....). As the men slay in bands, the victim is supposed almost never to escape. The bodies of the slain are cut up and the meat distributed often to other members of the tribe, including the women. (....). Human flesh is the fetish of the society, and the consumption of it is believed to give special power. (....), the killings, it is said, are primarily made that the flesh may be eaten ceremonially in order to vitalize the charm of the society; that thus strength may be brought to the members and protection given to the community." 
(Strong, 1930: p. 101). 

It is worth noting here that the killings were perpetrated for the furtherance of the interest of the tribal community. 


 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

     

 

 

 

 



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