ANNUAL REPORT 2010
The Wilderness & Wildlife Conservation Trust
130 Reid Avenue , Colombo 04, Sri Lanka
Tel: +94 11 2589468/+94 773 544 382
In 2010 the Wilderness & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Leopard Project expanded beyond a strictly research-based approach to leopard conservation, designing and implementing a more broadly-based program focused on educating and fostering awareness about the issues facing the Sri Lankan leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya). A geographical expansion was also undertaken (Fig 1), whereby we initiated two projects in the lowland dry zone of the country to complement the ongoing work in the central hills. The first of these, a volunteer-based monitoring initiative called “Spotting the Spots”, was launched in National Park’s Block I, one of the island’s best leopard viewing areas and where the Leopard Project carried out a detailed leopard study in 2001-2. The second initiative enters uncharted territory with initial surveys, both ecological and social, conducted in the north of the country, in an area that has been off limits for almost three decades during the civil war. The war ended in May 2009 and slowly the area is opening up with de-mining efforts making resettlement increasingly possible. This area harbours the largest contiguous forest on the island, the Wanni jungle, once famed for its abundant wildlife but now an unknown quantity after so many years of conflict and uncertainty.
In the central hills we continued our camera trap surveys and leopard sign indexes in the Dunumadallawa forest reserve, a small but important forest patch which borders the town of Kandy. This forest reserve was also targeted as the initial site for an ambitious forest rehabilitation project. The goal of this project is to remove a 44 hectare Pinus plantation that encompasses the upper slopes of this important watershed and re-plant native species with the twin goals of improving water retention on the upper slopes and increasing the available forest habitat for the wide array of species that live here. We are working on this project in conjunction with the Kandy Municipal Council, Waterworks Department, Forest Department and a local NGO. The Leopard Project has subsequently supplemented and expanded the small forest nursery on site and carried out biodiversity surveys (bird, butterfly, amphibian and mammal) in the forest reserve in order to fulfill the Environmental Impact Assessment criteria. These surveys will provide the ecological baseline for the whole project. Also in the central hills we conducted a recce trip in May to determine leopard presence in Horton Plains National Park as we hope to undertake a camera trapping survey in this area. The signs were encouraging and we are hopeful of getting permits to carry out a camera trap survey here in the coming year.