Annual Report 2011
The Wilderness & Wildlife Conservation Trust
130 Reid Avenue, Colombo 04, Sri Lanka
Tel: +94 11 2589468/+94 773 544 382
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In 2011 the Wilderness & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s (WWCT) Leopard Project was again active conducting primary research on Sri Lanka’s endangered leopard sub-species (Panthera pardus kotiya) as well as undertaking a variety of education and awareness-raising initiatives. These initiatives were aimed both at increasing understanding specifically of leopard ecology and behaviour as well as more generally about issues pertaining to leopard conservation in the country.
On the research front, we continued with the monitoring work from the past few years. In addition to our continual monitoring of leopard distribution, human-leopard interactions and leopard deaths throughout the country we also conducted regular leopard sign indexes in the Dunumadallawa forest reserve and increased our catalogue of leopard identification photographs from Yala National Park’s Block I. These we are compiling as part of a long-term population monitoring project. We undertook field visits to assess the viability of conducting a camera-trapping study in Sinharaja forest reserve and Horton Plains National Park. A proposal to carry out the study in Horton Plains has just been approved by the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) and work has begun.
Questionnaire surveys of villagers in Sri Lanka’s re-settling Northern provinces continued with three regions specifically targeted – Mannar in the northwest, the Wanni area north of Vavuniya in the north central and Padaviya in the northeast. The aim of these surveys is to document the baseline mammalian biodiversity in these poorly understood regions which have been largely inaccessible for almost 3 decades due to the recently concluded civil conflict. Results so far are mostly positive, indicating that wildlife populations are presently robust in the region even while forested areas are losing their large trees. The impact of the re-settlement process on wilderness areas and wildlife populations can only be monitored with some kind of baseline such as this.
On the education and awareness side, WWCT was involved in a wide variety of programs from televised interviews, radio broadcasts, school and community talks and University lectures. We also had our leopard awareness pamphlets translated into Sinhalese and Tamil for much wider distribution within the country.
Bridging research and education, in October 2011, two students from Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka (SUSL) started work with us as part of their final year undergraduate projects. They are the 4th and 5th such students that we have had joining the project in the past 3 years. One is investigating the biodiversity of patch forests in the hill country, comparing the isolated Dunumadallawa forest reserve with the Duckwari estate forest near the extensive Knuckles Conservation Area. The other student is determining the presence/absence and relative abundance of Sri Lanka’s four cat species in two hill country locations, Duckwari and Horton Plains National Park.
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