SPOTTING THE SPOTS
A Leopard Never Changes Spots
Spotting the Spots…
Precisely because a leopard, famously, never changes its spots, these spots can be used to accurately identify individuals. If viewed carefully, documented accurately and the data logged using a standardized method your leopard sighting -as a park visitor- can contribute towards an ongoing research database.
This form of data, provided by park visitors, has been successfully used in a number of projects around the world. One of the best examples of such use of visitor records is from the Ngorongoro crater in Tanzania, where voluntarily provided tourist photographs have been extensively used to assist in estimating changes in lion population characteristics (Packer et al. 1991- who is one of Andrew Kittle’s PhD supervisors). This was of particular importance to account for periods where researchers were absent from the park.
Sri Lanka- Yala & Wilpattu National Parks
The Leopard Project is now using such visitor-captured data obtained from selected, interested regular visitors to supplement our long term existing research database. Our existing data, gained from both day and night time field research, has allowed us to establish range use, behavioural and ecological patterns for the resident leopards. However, we now have long periods of absence from the park due to research commitments in other locations. Therefore utilizing select visitor-captured data, and comparing this with our existing database, will help us to continually monitor the population.
To get the most, from a scientific perspective, out of opportunistic leopard sightings there are certain elements that are essential to document. The most important is the photograph of the animal with the attendant date; the second key element is an accurate location description. This is best taken with a GPS but detailed descriptions of the area using road names and significant markers are also very useful. The provided data sheets will assist in the recording of this relevant information.
Initial analysis of data collected by our pool of Spotting the Spots Initiative volunteers from 2009 to 2012 have revealed 8 Females and 7 males (n=350) present in the more visitor frequented areas of Yala Block I
A few of the identified individuals