ABOUT THE WWCT
Established in 2004 the WWCT is a Sri Lankan registered Trust and has worked under the Department of Wildlife Conservation Sri Lanka (DWC) permit for the past 17years. The WWCT was preceded by The Leopard Project which was started in 2000 and now incorporated within WWCT. We have also when necessary worked under Forest Department permit. Our founding trustees and primary researchers are husband and wife zoologist and ecologist Dr. Andrew Kittle and Anjali Watson who apart from researching the leopard have also worked on other species (primates, sloths, martens, wolves, lions, hyenas) across habitats (Panama canal island forests, Costa Rica, Canadian boreal forest, Serengeti Tanzania).
To date WWCT has conducted ecological research on the leopard in multiple locations across the island- Yala National Park (NP) (2000- 2002; 2009-11), Wilpattu NP (2014-2015), Horton Plains NP (2012), Ritigala SNR (2014-2015), Peak Wilderness Sanctuary and adjoining areas (2016-ongoing) and patch forests in Kandy and Agrapatana (2003 – 2011), as well as survey work in the Wanni jungles (2010-2011). We maintain an island-wide distribution map, which together with site-specific abundance estimates and habitat selection data we utilize to determine the status of the Sri Lankan leopard for the IUCN’s Red List. This data is what has identified the Sri Lankan leopard as globally Endangered. We have established leopard presence and estimated density and abundance for the above-mentioned protected and unprotected areas as well as determined an island-wide population estimate for the whole of Sri Lanka. Leopard diet, habitat use, and movement have been and continue to be researched, as does prey abundance.
Our leopard work in the Central Hills of Sri Lanka, now a World Heritage Site, has firmly established the important role leopards play in these ridge wilderness areas in and around tea estate lands and has highlighted the importance of small, seemingly isolated forest patches to leopard movement and range use. WWCT also maintains a database of leopard mortality and human-leopard incidents throughout the country and have identified hotspots for future conflict that need to be addressed. Our work also catalogs the presence and distribution of Sri Lanka’s other wildcats (fishing cat, jungle cat, rusty spotted cat) and we contribute to the IUCN’s Red List assessments for them. Other biodiversity, especially mammal diversity is also something that we are able to document throughout our study sites across the country. From a direct conservation perspective, WWCT is working together with DWC to reduce and prevent human-leopard incidents and leopard mortality especially in the Central Hills.
We conduct numerous community and school awareness programmes annually, in conjunction with DWC and other relevant organizations, often at the specific request of the community. We train many interested parties to ensure leopard conservation occurs in areas throughout the country. We serve as external scientific Supervisors and provide the facility for University students to conduct their research projects under the purview of WWCT’s on-going work; to date, we have had students from several local Universities including Sabaragamuwa, Colombo, Peradeniya, Sri Jayewardenepura and Jaffna University (Vavuniya campus). We have also had/have students from international universities (Edinburgh in the UK, Deakin in Australia and Wageningen in the Netherlands) working with us. Many volunteers also form part of the WWCT team adding a dynamic make up to it. A Research and Conservation station, which will help this work and add greatly to the overall profile of research and conservation in Sri Lanka has been set up by WWCT and interested partners.
WWCT’s continued long-term research on the leopard and its habitat will provide vital information which, if used correctly, will enable Sri Lanka to continue to be a high biodiversity nation