WNPS partners with LOLC to establish multi-regional monitoring system for Sri Lankan leopard conservation – The Island
February 21, 2022 (COLOMBO) The Sri Lankan leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya) is the largest of the four wild cat species found in Sri Lanka and the island’s apex predatory mammal. The subspecies of this charismatic animal is endemic to Sri Lanka and widely distributed in the dry areas of the island and the lowland wetlands with habitats ranging up to the cloud forests of the highest elevations of the hills.
There are thought to be less than 1,000 leopards roaming the wild on the island. In addition, the leopard is globally threatened by habitat loss and illegal wildlife trade, while in human-dominated land use areas in Sri Lanka, the impacts of habitat loss critically prevail. To initiate and sustain a science-based conservation strategy, it is imperative to better understand the distribution and ecology of the Sri Lankan leopard, especially in understudied areas of the country.
To fill this knowledge gap, the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) will partner with LOLC Holdings PLC, Sri Lanka’s leading and largest diversified conglomerate, to establish a network of specialist leopard conservation sites and centers research in identified geographically significant areas in Sri Lanka. . These research centers will focus on understanding the function of species in populations or meta-populations that exist at much larger scales than individual management units, at the regional level.
Through this initiative, WNPS hopes to create a common knowledge and data-sharing platform to pilot a research-based island-wide leopard monitoring program. With the establishment of these research centers nationwide, smaller monitoring efforts will be easily integrated into larger programs and databases. It will allow scientists and conservationists to access deeper and broader datasets to understand local leopard populations, regionally and nationally.
In the initial phase, six research stations will be set up in identified locations across Okanda or Panama, Morningside, Killinochchi, Belihuloya, Maskeliya or Nallathaniya, Sigiriya or Ritigala. The project will monitor the presence of leopards in selected geographical areas, using camera traps and surveys.
The research centers will liaise with local wildlife and forestry officers, and will also serve as educational centers to raise awareness among local communities, including dissemination of knowledge and generation of human-leopard conflict mitigation measures based on research. This is timely and essential to address the increasing number of leopard deaths in Sri Lanka, mainly from traps set in a human-dominated landscape.
The project will provide critical context for the management and conservation of the Sri Lankan leopard, currently listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Recent research has shown that leopard habitat suitability in Sri Lanka is strongly influenced by forest cover, patch size, connectivity and level of landscape protection, a key requirement for conserving the biodiversity of the landscape. ‘Isle.
“As the Sri Lankan leopard is the largest predator in our ecosystem, it is important that we know the current position related to its habitat, the threats it faces, etc. Therefore, it is essential to conduct a collection more coordinated island-wide efforts to mitigate any conflicts or problems faced by this predator,” said Mr. Kapila Jayawardena, Group Managing Director/CEO of LOLC Group. “To this end, we We are happy to step forward and partner with WNPS to support them in this endeavour, which will enable them to make informed decisions to protect this endemic species,” he continued.
“Multi-stakeholder partnerships play a key role in influencing the course of conservation. For lasting impacts, a range of extraordinary partners, including governments, local communities, businesses, scientists, academics and individuals must collaborate. We are pleased that the largest and most diverse business group in Sri Lanka has partnered with us for a 5 year project. WNPS will bring the feral cat research community to work together and share results for a collective conservation effort,” said WNPS President Spencer Manuelpillai.
Speaking further, Professor Enoka Kudavidanage said: “The Sri Lankan leopard is threatened by our unplanned land use, intentional wildlife crime, lack of awareness, economic intentions especially in the sector of tourism with minimal respect for wildlife, barriers to enforcing adequate penalties for wildlife crime, limited understanding of its ecology and resource requirements, and finally the delay in translating knowledge into action .
“I hope this initiative by WNPS and LOLC Holdings will help combine past discoveries with ongoing research and conservation actions, identify data gaps, fill them in collaborative ways, facilitate the sharing data and feeding a collective and a science. -long-term leopard conservation strategy for Sri Lanka with multi-stakeholder involvement. The project will benefit from the knowledge of all researchers studying leopards in Sri Lanka, those actively working for the conservation of this charismatic animal, and those willing to initiate new research in data-poor areas, such as our ultimate goal. is to ensure the existence of healthy leopard populations in Sri Lanka”.