SRI LANKA LEOPARD CONSERVATION

WNPS monthly lecture/discussion, Conservation of the Sri Lankan Leopard will be held at BMICH with the participation of Professor Enoka Kudavidanage, Rukshan Jayewardene and Kithsiri Gunawardena (moderated by Sriyan de Silva Wijeyeratne) on August 18 at 6 p.m.

In the early 1900s, it was estimated that there were 1,600 wild leopards in Sri Lanka. It is not certain of the accuracy of this claim or the scientific basis of the research that led to the determination of this figure. It was probably more of an “estimate”, based on the knowledge accumulated at that time. Even today, we must rely on such estimates because, to date, no full scientific investigation has been conducted island-wide to establish a definitive number. These estimates vary between 800 and 1,000, for the whole country. As such, it is difficult to accurately assess whether their numbers have increased or decreased over time.

What is certain, however, based on the intensive research that has been carried out lately, in and around protected areas, is that the number of confirmed leopard deaths is on the rise. 41 have been killed in the last 5 years, mostly in the backcountry, and a number have already died this year. Where once leopards were killed for their beautiful skins, there is evidence to suggest they are increasingly being targeted for their teeth and claws; as substitutes for tiger claws in the aphrodisiac and witchcraft trade. Additionally, and most perilous for this already endangered species, is the loss of its natural habitat due to illegal human encroachment. Inevitably, this results in the reduction of prey species that also inhabit these areas.

The leopards then enter the human habitation in search of food and are killed in the most gruesome ways – traps, trap guns, poisons, etc. – often in agony for many hours and days before death sets them free. There is a mistaken belief, among some, that the leopard population is increasing. In fact, it’s just that they’ve become more visible, drawn to human settlements in search of food.

It is essential that Sri Lanka’s apex predator, the leopard, is conserved with strategies based on good science. The sustainability of the interconnected community, of which it is a vital component, also depends on it.

Professors Enoka Kudavidanage, Rukshan Jayewardene and Kithsiri Gunawardena are recognized as being among the top three “brains” on leopard behavior and conservation pressures.

The WNPS is privileged to have their services on a panel discussion to discuss the current status of the wild leopard, and the steps needed for their future conservation. The discussion will be moderated by Sriyan de Silva Wijeyeratne, the Society’s former president. This is surely a discussion to follow by those who love the leopard.

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Prof. Enoka P. Enoka P. Kudavidanage is a Professor of Conservation Biology, affiliated with Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka since 2001. She completed her Honors BSc in Zoology and MSc in Environmental Science at the Department of Zoology from the University of Colombo, and Ph.D. in the Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore in 2012. His research areas include wildlife crime mitigation, ecology and wildlife conservation. leopard from Sri Lanka, the management of protected areas and the use of biological indicators to monitor the impacts of land use change. and community-level impacts of agrochemicals.

She co-founded the Topical Ecosystem Research Network (TERN). Enoka is the Regional Secretary of the Asia-Pacific Section of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC), Co-Chair of the WNPS Wildcat Conservation Committee, Advisor to the Multi-Regional Leopard Research and Monitoring Network of Sri Lanka. Lanka, and an OTF Trustee

Rukshan Jayewardene, founding trustee of the Leopard Trust; Chairman of the Wilderness and Protected Areas Foundation, former Director of the Environmental Foundation Limited (EFL) and former Chairman of the WNPS. A lifelong passion for wildlife; Interested in evolution, the adaptive radiation of species, the long-term conservation of leopards and all issues related to biodiversity. A wildlife photographer who believes photography’s role in conservation is best served by adhering to standards and ethics.

Kithsiri Gunawardena: There may be no one since the end of the battle against terrorism who has learned more about Wilpattu than Kithsiri Gunawardena. Despite his busy schedule as Chief Operating Officer of the LOLC Group, he finds time to visit the park as often as possible and has set up an invaluable database to record the park’s leopards. A renowned ornithologist in his own right, his love for Wilpattu extends beyond the most popular species to his moths and all other creatures large and small. With his in-depth knowledge of the Park and its history, no one could better describe the marvels of this national natural treasure, its secrets and the dangers that haunt it today.

Moderator Sriyan de Silva Wijeyeratne is a former president of WNPS and currently president of PLANT. A former chair of the Wild Cat Sub-Committee, he conceptualized the notion of a Leopard Day which later became a reality. A passionate ecologist who loves the great outdoors, he loves photography and music. Business leader and former Chairman of the ETF Board, he has several academic and business awards to his credit and is a frequent speaker at forums. He is involved with Chambers and local and global charities, and recently published his second photographic journal titled “Wild World-All Eyes on Nature”.

The monthly WNPS conference/discussion is supported by the Nations Trust Bank.

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