Along with school programs and awareness building, our main focus at the moment is a presence/absence survey of leopards in the north and east of Sri Lanka. This area was badly affected during the long civil conflict and only now are areas opening up for re-settlement, once mines are cleared. We want to know what the status of wildlife populations are in these areas as post-war development is going to have a profound impact on the ecology of the region. We are maintaining a focus on the leopard but also investigating general biodiversity as well as elephant presence. It is important to know what is there now before the land is all converted to other uses so that we can anticipate some of the issues that might arise after re-settlement. This area – the Wanni - used to be one of the most famous jungles in the country during colonial times, when hunting expeditions would set off to bag staggering numbers of elephants, deer, wild boar as well as leopards. It is fortunate that in Sri Lanka there is a conservation ethic that runs through ordinary life and also crosses cultures, making the concept of valuing and protecting wildlife – and through them vital ecosystem services – something realistic and attainable.
This is an important time in the country as for the first time in 30 years there is no great constraint on growth, development and entrepreneurship. The island is relatively small (65 000 km²) and the population relatively large (>21 million) so space for both humans and wildlife will be at a premium. We are dedicated to attempting to ensure that both can flourish here together, co-existing in the way that they have for many centuries.