ANNUAL REPORT 2013
The Wilderness & Wildlife Conservation Trust
130 Reid Avenue , Colombo 04, Sri Lanka
Tel: +94 11 2589468/+94 773 544 382
The major research focus for the Wilderness & Wildlife Conservation Trust in 2013 was to conduct a series of field visits to a selection of Protected Areas around the island. The rationale for these field visits, which included comprehensive questionnaire surveys of Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) staff officers at each location, was to provide important information upon which can be based the strategy for a wide ranging camera trapping survey. This survey will be conducted starting in 2014 when WWCT’s Principal Investigator’s return full time. Building on prior work conducted in Yala National Park in the arid southeast, and Horton Plains National Park in the mid-country hill zone, this study is aimed at establishing accurate population estimates for leopards in a number of locations representing an ecological cross-section of the country. These surveys will include habitat selection analysis which is critical to a nuanced understanding not only of leopard distribution but also how this distribution might be perceived by prey species at a fine scale. This perception in turn has direct impact on the distribution and behavior of prey species which influences predator-prey dynamics. This year’s surveys are providing relevant information regarding current DWC perspectives, identification of areas of intense conflict and/or threat and the establishment of a baseline from which can be gauged regional priorities.
WWCT continued with its work on the education and awareness front. Presentations were given at each of the Protected Areas visited as part of the above survey with a number of additional presentations for public and special interest groups. These presentations invariably are well received and often are the first quantitative approach to wildlife conservation to which audience members have been exposed. The demand for WWCT Leopard Project pamphlets at these presentations has been such a renewed print of the Sinhala pamphlets was required in 2013.
In addition, after earlier delays, the “Wild Cats of Sri Lanka” poster is complete and in print. This is a visually attractive fold-out poster that gives a clear and concise description, in English, Sinhala and Tamil of the four wild cat species that exist in Sri Lanka. Conceptually simple, there is nonetheless a substantial need for this sort of basic educational tool and it is expected that it will be in high demand.
Some frustrations in 2013 included continued delays on the analysis of the 250+ scat samples collected during the Horton Plains camera trap survey in 2012. This analysis is an important component of that work and the delays have meant that the results of this survey, summarized in last year’s Annual Report, have still not been published. Two other manuscripts have long been accepted in two different journals (one since 2012!) yet are still awaiting final publication.