Determining leopard presence, land use, and prey species availability in
Ruhuna (Yala) National Park Border Areas
(In relation to livestock depredation retaliatory leopard killings)
Permission to begin this work was granted by the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) to the Wilderness & Wildlife Conservation Trust (WWCT) under its on-going island-wide Leopard Project in June 2018. The first phase of the study was begun in July with the setting up of remote cameras in the border areas outside and adjacent to the electric fence of Ruhuna (Yala) National Park (YNP), Block I, Palatupana entrance area. Phase II will increase the monitoring in this area while Phase III hopes to study the Katagamuwa buffer zone area.
The reason for this study is twofold: 1. to better understand leopard presence and land use together with prey availability in these buffer zone areas of YNP and how this may influence the overall leopard population here. 2. To assess the impact of leopard deaths as a result of livestock retaliatory killings by cattle herders in these border areas.
As a side study the efficacy of giving of pens to herders (a project carried out by a corporate sector) is also being conducted. Whether these pens are aiding or hindering overall long term conservation of leopards in the area will be analysed.
This study is being conducted as a comparative to our Central Highland leopard study in an attempt to understand the differences of land use by leopards between buffer zone areas in two different landscape types- arid zone and sub montane wet zone- in Sri Lanka. It also hopes to reveal if cattle husbandry methods, which vary between these two sites, are impacting leopard prey availability, cattle predation by leopards and the resultant retaliatory killing of leopards by cattle farmers.
The dairy industry in Sri Lanka is being intensified and non-traditional methods of cattle farming being promoted. This runs the risk of brining cattle and wildlife into closer contact. The possible competition for space and resources that could result may lead to wildlife human conflict scenarios. WWCT feels this is something that needs to be assessed and monitored at this point, to understand how the promotion of the dairy industry will in turn impact wildlife populations and play a role in the increase of human-wildlife interaction and possible conflict scenarios.
For a more detailed account of ongoing work click this link: