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  • Writer's pictureNimalka Sanjeewani

The abundance of prey available for the leopard in Dunumadalawa forest reserve

I am now a science graduate from the Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka. I needed to do a research project in my final semester. During this time period I heard of the The Wilderness and Wildlife Conservation Trust through a senior student and heard of their leopard project research work being conducted within the Dunnumadalawa forest in Kandy. As a natural sciences student I thought it would be an ideal opportunity to join this research project if possible. I was at a presentation given by this senior student who had also done his final year project with WWCT and was now working for them as a junior research assistant. I approached him to help me get involved in WWCT’s Leopard Project

I met with the main Trustees of WWCT, Mr. Andrew and Mrs. Anjali, and discussed with them possible research topics for my final year project and what I could do for leopards. At that time the idea of doing a study on leopard prey abundance was suggested. I agreed gladly and we decided that I would do my project on the abundance of prey available for the leopard in Dunumadalawa forest reserve using a methods comparison.

I started my field work in August 2009 and continued until December 2009. I was very excited to be involved in this research and to have a first hand experience of working in a forest with leopard and other wildlife. 5 different methods to determine the abundance of prey (wildlife eaten by leopards) was used in different habitats. It was a strenuous task and involved a lot of walking in the forest, pinus area and grassland patches within the reserve. It was the rainy season in Kandy and heavy rains and some landslides occurred making the field work very demanding. But we continued with our data collection and it was a rewarding experience.

I recorded some bird and butterfly species as well but my main species of interest were mammals such as the toque macaque monkey, barking deer, mouse-deer, wild boar and porcupine. All were sighted; as well indirect signs like scat, carcass/kills etc were noted. Since all of my work was conducted by foot I was lucky to be able to see these animals at close quarters.

I feel that I was very lucky to work with WWCT and its Leopard Project. It was a very easy atmosphere in which to work as I always had the support and advice of the Trust. My final project was very well reviewed and refined by Mr. Andrew giving a lot of his ideas and valuable time. Via this research I was actively involved in practicing conservation rather than doing conservation by reading books. The support I received from the Trust both in academics and field support funds and logistics allowed for this. Thanks to Mr. Andrew and Ms. Anjali for giving me this opportunity. I would like to also thank Mr. Sandun Perera from the University of Sabaragamuwa who encouraged me to follow wildlife conservation. Thanks to Miss. Deepchandi Lekamge from University of Sabaragamuwa for encouraging me to take on this research project for my B.Sc thesis and also Mr.Chanaka Kumara, Junior research assistant for the WWCT Leopard Project- he was really supportive and a trusty person in the field. Finally I would like to thank God for showing my path in nature.

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