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

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Sri Lankan conservationist Anjali Watson says that as forests the place leopards keep are cleared to plant crops and assemble properties, the huge cats are being squeezed into pockets of wilderness that don’t be part of with each other.

“We’ve lost a lot of leopards,” says Watson. No particular person is conscious of what variety of prowled the land sooner than the warfare, nevertheless about 70% of the animals’ habitat has been destroyed, and solely 750 to 1,000 grownup leopards keep, she says.

What’s further, leopards are prone to getting caught in snares. The wire traps are usually set for bushmeat species, along with wild boar and deer, nevertheless they’re indiscriminate in what they catch.

As Sri Lanka’s prime predator, and its solely large cat, the leopard “plays a key role” in Sri Lanka’s ecosystem, says Watson. “We call it an umbrella species,” she says, because of taking steps to keep away from losing leopards protects all the alternative species that share their forest dwelling.

A passion for wildlife

Watson grew up throughout the metropolis of Colombo, nevertheless “I loved being out in wild spaces … I have a strong affinity with animals” she says.

(Video courtesy of Chitral Jayatilake)

In 1994 she moved to Ontario, Canada, to overview at McMaster School, and met her future husband, Andrew Kittle.

A lot of years later the couple, who share a passion for wildlife, had settled in Sri Lanka. In 2000 they launched a pilot problem to overview leopards in Yala Nationwide Park throughout the island’s southeast. On the time, little or no was acknowledged in regards to the elusive animals, says Watson. To protect them, it was vital to understand their lives — and to rely them. Watson and Kittle, who went on to establish the Wilderness & Wildlife Conservation Perception (WWCT) in 2004, in the meanwhile work in 4 locations spherical Sri Lanka. They’re investigating the size of the leopard inhabitants using distant cameras that take footage after they detect movement. Leopards that are caught on digicam is perhaps acknowledged because of every has a novel pattern of spots — and famously, their spots not at all change.

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Placing within the cameras is often grueling work, says Watson. It’d most likely comprise prolonged drives on spine-rattling, rocky tracks, clambering up hillsides, bushwhacking via jungle, and occasional encounters with elephants, bears and snakes, along with leeches and ticks.Anjali Watson attaches a motion-detecting camera to a tree.

Out throughout the self-discipline, the workforce collects leopard scat to go looking out out which animals they’re trying — leopards are often not picky eaters and their consuming routine consists of deer, monkeys, wild boar, porcupines and hares.

Watson hopes that WWCT’s information will help to type enchancment plans that make space for leopards. If corridors between forest patches and buffer zones spherical protected areas are safeguarded, every folks and animals could thrive. Watson is devoted to creating certain that these “beautiful, fabulous creatures” survive.


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