Sri Lanka’s leopards are under threat, but this woman is determined to save them

Sri Lankan conservationist Anjali Watson says that as forests the place leopards stay are cleared to plant crops and construct properties, the massive cats are being squeezed into pockets of wilderness that do not join with one another.

“We have misplaced a number of leopards,” says Watson. No person 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.

What’s extra, leopards are vulnerable to getting caught in snares. The wire traps are normally set for bushmeat species, together with wild boar and deer, however they’re indiscriminate in what they catch.

As Sri Lanka’s high predator, and its solely large 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 save lots of leopards protects all the opposite species that share their forest dwelling.

A ardour for wildlife

Watson grew up within the metropolis of Colombo, however “I cherished being out in wild areas … I’ve a robust 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.

A number of years later the couple, who share a ardour for wildlife, had settled in Sri Lanka. In 2000 they launched a pilot undertaking 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 know their lives — and to rely them.

Watson and Kittle, who went on to determine the Wilderness & Wildlife Conservation Trust (WWCT) in 2004, at the moment work in 4 areas round Sri Lanka. They’re investigating the scale of the leopard inhabitants utilizing distant cameras that take photographs after they detect motion. Leopards which can be caught on digicam could be recognized as a result of every one has a novel sample of spots — and famously, their spots by no means change.

Putting in the cameras is commonly grueling work, says Watson. It will probably 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.

Anjali Watson attaches a motion-detecting camera to a tree.

Out within the area, the crew collects leopard scat to seek out out which animals they’re searching — leopards will not be choosy eaters and their eating regimen contains 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 might thrive. Watson is devoted to making sure that these “lovely, fabulous creatures” survive.

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