Written by Staff Writer at CNN Sri Lanka,
Species Protection Council of Sri Lanka (SPCSL) recently provided a tour of its main forest reserve in northern Sri Lanka. The team saw animals ranging from red leopards to sloth bears and spotted even a snow leopard as one of the eight leopards sanctuary raised around 40,000 acres of land against the backdrop of lush, natural terrain.
“Being a member of the conservation fraternity, we have to emphasize in our public knowledge that the forest is home to the majestic snow leopard, which plays a vital role in forest ecosystem and provides enormous benefit to its surroundings,” said SPSCL Head of Conservation and Assessment, Peter Chandler.
A tiger and sloth bear on a path in Samanel area near Palaly National Park.
The forest’s rainforests are home to the great white shark, humpback whale, hippopotamus, large number of primates and many species of birds. However, in the past decade there has been an alarming decline in this predator.
While some of the loss is thought to be down to road-tending and increased farming activities, pollution and poaching are other factors making the forested landscape inhospitable to big cats.
The forest is home to red leopards.
“The the number of leopards that we have identified in the forest is alarming and all efforts should be made to protect them, thus allowing them to reproduce and maintain their population,” said M. P. Austin, Director of Conservation of Africa, Asia and the Pacific, World Wildlife Fund.
We talked to conservation experts to hear about the problem, solutions and the hope for the future.
Chandara Shanker of the SPSCL
“It is estimated that around 2,000 or more animals have been lost in the past decade alone. The regional population has reduced to around 500-700 animals and falls below the required minimum annual population target of 500 (on average). As a result, there is no pressure on the leopard population and it continues to support a stable population of around 4,000-5,000 wild leopards.
“Ahead of World Wildlife Day, on October 5 every year, it is essential to maintain and increase protection measures because human population encroaches on protected areas all the time.”
Ayar Gunasekera, Professional Conservation Associate, Environment Watch (South Asia)
“The conservation of leopards is a major global problem but Sri Lanka is taking the initiative to sustain its leopard population.
“While we are also noticing a decrease in population number of leopards due to their natural predators such as wild dogs, warthogs and owls, we are also seeing a decrease in forest plant cover. Trees like tamarind and betel nut trees are losing importance because the demand for them and firewood has risen.”
By M. P. Austin, Director, Conservation of Africa, Asia and the Pacific, World Wildlife Fund