To protect our Wildlife we must conserve our Wilderness and for our Wilderness to be meaningful our Wildlife must be able to roam free within it.
Till Next Time...

by Maya Situnayake on 4/20/2017 1:25:11 AM



January 2017 
 
January was very busy, with a rush to collect the last data before leaving in a couple of short weeks back to the Netherlands. I know now that time management and proper scheduling is vital for a researcher! It all turned out alright in the end but it was an important lesson to learn. I also finally saw my first leopard after months of field and lab work – this was when I joined WWCT on a short monitoring trip to Wilpattu National Park. One was a wonderful sighting of a female walking down a jeep trail – she was so undeterred by our presence, it seemed that the leopards of the park were getting quite used to visitors! I also had a quick introduction of how prey transects are performed. It was a wonderful way to end five months with WWCT. Back in wintery Amsterdam as I write this - I miss it all so much. Thank you WWCT for the wonderful experience, and I hope to work together with you in the near future.
Lab Work

by Maya Situnayake on 4/20/2017 1:23:25 AM



November 2016 
 
Another part of my thesis research was to study the diet of the leopards in the central highlands, to determine whether or not this may have an influence on the recent leopard incidents in the area. To do this, I performed an analysis of leopard scats that were collected opportunistically during the field work done in the area. I received a training by Saminda Fernando (University of Colombo) and together with Jonathan Gnanapragasam (Research Assistant, WWCT) and Chiharu Higuchi (intern, University of Melbourne), we determined a part of the leopard diet of this area. It was the first time I had done scat analysis and it was fascinating to identify the prey species from all the hair, bones, teeth and claws that were left undigested. A part of this was carried out in school labs, and the interest that the school children had in our work was so encouraging. They wanted to carry out similar diet studies with their own science projects. It was wonderful to see young children show such an interest in wildlife research. 
Joining WWCT

by Maya Situnayake on 4/20/2017 1:22:34 AM



September 2016 
 
My interests lie in carnivore research for the purpose of conservation, which is what the Leopard Project is essentially about. This is why I wasted no time in asking WWCT if I could join the project for my MSc thesis (Wageningen University). As a large proportion of human-leopard incidents had recently occurred in the central highlands of Sri Lanka, WWCT decided to focus on this area to better understand the reasons behind these recent incidents. My research focus in this study was to try and ascertain what landscape patterns exist amongst the locations where leopards were killed. Being such a challenging terrain, the WWCT pickup was no stranger to taking a beating on the tea roads, but occasionally needed to see the mechanics. This is where I learned a lot more about the structure of a vehicle in the first month than I had ever known before! Navigating was tricky, but together with Emad Sangani and Riahn Peiris this was another skill that improved the more I worked. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the field work, and coming back to Dunkeld Research Station after a long day of tea roads and camera trapping always felt like coming home. 
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