VAVUNIKULAM SANCTUARY AREA
The Leopard Project is continuing with its post-war analysis of habitat and animal diversity and has begun work in the Wanni area. Work commenced in 2016 in the Vavunikulam region in particular, where the sanctuary border is being redefined by the DWC. A student project under WWCT guidance was begun to obtain evidence for the presence of leopards and other wild cats. General prey surveys are also ongoing to better understand the state of wildlife in the area. The Vavunikulam forest centres on the Vavunikulam tank. The region still consists of scrub jungle with some areas having large trees and dense forest cover. However, resettlement has begun with families which fled the area due to the civil war returning to the region. Unfortunately, resettlement is occurring within the sanctuary and therefore forest cover is being cleared for paddy and vegetable farming. Livestock such as cattle, buffalo, and goats are also found within and adjacent to the sanctuary. Many small paths are used by villagers within the forest and some tree felling and firewood collection is occurring. This highlights the importance of better land-use practices to be promoted in the area. The Leopard Project conducted sign index surveys and was able to obtain pugmarks, scat and leopard kills in the area. It has also conducted questionnaire surveys with the villagers inside the sanctuary. Ongoing evidence of leopard presence is heartening and confirms the need for further ground-based research in the region. Targeted conservation action to minimise leopard-human interaction and decrease wilderness degradation is also required and it is hoped that such actions will come about as work continues here.
The Leopard Project Team
The Wilderness & Wildlife Conservation Trust (WWCT)