ANNUAL REPORT 2014
The Wilderness & Wildlife Conservation Trust
130 Reid Avenue , Colombo 04, Sri Lanka
Tel: +94 11 2589468/+94 773 544 382
The 2014 calendar year represented steady progress towards the eventual fulfillment of the Wilderness & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s most recent major research project – habitat specific abundance surveys using a capture-recapture camera trapping framework. We were granted Department of Wildlife Conservation permits in September to conduct the necessary research in three locations that we had previously identified as priorities – Wilpattu National Park, Ritigala Strict Natural Reserve and Peak Wilderness Sanctuary – and we visited all of these study areas in the latter half of the year to conduct initial mapping and plan survey logistics. We finalized background research on remote cameras and purchased 16 new units (Scoutmaster SG565) during the second half of 2014 in preparation for the project.
In addition this year marked the inception of an exciting new project aimed at using non-invasive genetic analysis to investigate relationships and linkages between known leopard populations on the island. In constructive meetings with genetics experts at the University of Peradeniya we agreed a list of essential equipment as well as a plan to store and analyze leopard scat samples for this purpose.
As usual, WWCT also continued with our education and awareness drive, conducting two public lectures, four targeted awareness programs and one schools program almost all of which were located in the central highlands where human-leopard conflict appears to be most acute. The awareness programs were all in direct response to an alarming incident whereby it was reported that a woman was killed by a leopard in a forest reserve in the central hills. The result of this report, which is still under serious question, was a substantial increase in fear from various groups that have long lived in relative harmony with leopards.
Also on the education front, WWCT actively promoted our educational “Wild Cats of Sri Lanka” poster/pamphlet, which as anticipated, was very well received. Furthermore, we published two research articles after lengthy delays by the relevant journals and were the subject of three newspaper articles which garnered widespread circulation.
A student intern from the University of Peradeniya joined WWCT in August-September and proved a valuable and interested member of the team. He has subsequently been hired as a contract employee.
Finally, 2014 marked the year in which WWCT’s Principal Investigator attained a Doctorate in Integrative Biology from the University of Guelph in Canada and returned to Sri Lanka full-time.