Duckwari (Dec 2011)
The WWCT has now begun new research work in another forest patch named Duckwari. It’s within a tea estate at the top of a misty mountain; the forest patch reminds one of a lady wearing a hat. With the calls of serpent eagles and yellow eared bull bulls it reminds us that this is a typical montane forest reserve. Even though the forest reserve is surrounded by tea plantation there is a connection to the larger Knuckles range. The area has large tea plantations- Duckwari, Rangala and Lunugala plantations are the main plantation groups in the area. Fortunately there are some small forest patches left in the plantations.
As WWCT needed to better understand the extent of the forest we first started mapping of the forest boundaries within Duckwari. This was my job. On the first day we got to the forest we found a leopard scat just before a pond in between tea ad forest. It was a quite exciting to find this. When we looked inside the forest there was a cardamom plantation as the understory layer. A watcher says they have planted almost 80 hectares of cardamom under the natural forest. The forest area has steep rocky surfaces and wild shrubs with leaches! Having climbed nearly 60 degrees steep big rocks we were able to reach the summit of the Duckwari forest. Inside the forest there is a good trail system that can be walked easily. A tarred road goes through the forest and at the Rangala Side there are some old tea trees and old tea trails inside the forest. We assumed that the area had regenerated with time. When we reached to the Northern edge of the forest we could see a panoramic view of the Thangappuwa forest area which borders the Knuckles range. Observing the terrain one can easily see how a leopard could use this corridor and walk through and roam. There is sound evidence of the prey species for the leopard such as the signs of Barking deer, Black-napped hare, Giant squirrel, Giant flying squirrel and wild boar.
Even though the area remains isolated from the city there still have natural and manmade threats to the forest. Such as, Landslides (near Elabarada, Eluwagala, Poddalgoda village area), encroachment for human habitations and tree cutting. In the Duckwari area almost all persons are estate labourers and many of them are living in line houses with basic facilities. The two schools near Duckwari give free education for the children from the Duckwari and Rangala plantations. I feel these are the most suitable community groups that we must make aware on the dynamic ecosystems in their vicinity. Then at least we may still be able to conserve the rest of the montane patch forests closest to the Knuckles Reserve.