Having endured a bloody civil struggle from 1983 till 2009, Sri Lanka is now at peace and growing quickly. That’s excellent news for the nation as a complete, however the island nation’s leopards are underneath risk.
Sri Lankan conservationist Anjali Watson says that as forests the place leopards stay are cleared to plant crops and construct properties, the large cats are being squeezed into pockets of wilderness that don’t join with one another.
“We’ve misplaced a number of leopards,” says Watson. No one is aware of what number of prowled the land earlier than the struggle, however about 70% of the animals’ habitat has been destroyed, and solely 750 to 1,000 grownup leopards stay, she says.
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What’s extra, leopards are liable to getting caught in snares. The wire traps are often set for bushmeat species, together with wild boar and deer, however they’re indiscriminate in what they catch.
Sri Lanka’s unbelievable wildlife
As Sri Lanka’s high predator, and its solely huge cat, the leopard “performs a key function” in Sri Lanka’s ecosystem, says Watson. “We name it an umbrella species,” she says, as a result of taking steps to avoid wasting leopards protects all the opposite species that share their forest residence.
Watson grew up within the metropolis of Colombo, however “I beloved being out in wild areas … I’ve a powerful affinity with animals” she says.
(Video courtesy of Chitral Jayatilake)
In 1994 she moved to Ontario, Canada, to review at McMaster College, and met her future husband, Andrew Kittle.
Just a few years later the couple, who share a ardour for wildlife, had settled in Sri Lanka. In 2000 they launched a pilot venture to review leopards in Yala Nationwide Park within the island’s southeast. On the time, little or no was recognized in regards to the elusive animals, says Watson. To guard them, it was important to grasp their lives – and to rely them.
Watson and Kittle, who went on to ascertain the Wilderness & Wildlife Conservation Trust (WWCT) in 2004, at present work in 4 places round Sri Lanka. They’re investigating the scale of the leopard inhabitants utilizing distant cameras that take images after they detect motion. Leopards which are caught on digital camera might be recognized as a result of each has a novel sample of spots – and famously, their spots by no means change.
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Putting in the cameras is usually grueling work, says Watson. It might contain lengthy drives on spine-rattling, rocky tracks, clambering up hillsides, bushwhacking by means of jungle, and occasional encounters with elephants, bears and snakes, in addition to leeches and ticks.
Out within the discipline, the group collects leopard scat to seek out out which animals they’re looking – leopards will not be choosy eaters and their weight-reduction plan consists of deer, monkeys, wild boar, porcupines and hares.
Watson hopes that WWCT’s knowledge will assist to form improvement plans that make house for leopards. If corridors between forest patches and buffer zones round protected areas are safeguarded, each people and animals may thrive. Watson is devoted to making sure that these “lovely, fabulous creatures” survive.