© Priyantha Kumara

The international conference on Wildcats of South Asia was held in Colombo on the 1st & 2nd of November 2015. Initiated by the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society of Sri Lanka, an organising committee including WWCT trustees were instrumental in ensuring a diverse and in-depth programme. The conference was attended by distinguished wildlife conservation researchers as well as young upcoming researchers and saw lectures from participants from countries such as England, France, USA, India, Sweden and Sri Lanka. The main aim of the conference was to share research with each other and to discuss and come up with solutions to problems faced by WildCats in South Asia and worldwide.

We were very fortunate to have in particular Professor David Macdonald from Oxford University WILDCRU, who also brought to light issues faced in Africa. He also spoke on the recent scandal involving Cecil the Lion which was one of his study subjects which was shot dead by a trophy hunter, highlighting the varied aspects of conservation issues.

Dr. James Sanderson discussed problems faced by small wildcats around the world and stated that there was a need for increased research and funding for small cats.

WWCT’s Dr. Kittle and Ms. Watson shared their on-going research findings on the Sri Lankan leopard and were able to provide a clear picture of the distribution of leopards in the country revealing the correlation between forest cover and leopard presence.  Human leopard incidents across the country were also presented and focus areas identified.

The Wildlife Departments veterinary surgeon Dr. Vijitha Perera shared the causes of death from his post mortems of leopards and other wild cats of Sri Lanka.

Dr. Shomita Mukherjee spoke on wildcats of India with a focus on their present and historical distribution.  Dr. Meena Venkataram shared the problems faced by the Gir lion population in India and pointed out the similarities of threats faced by wildcats in India and Sri Lanka.

A couple of other talks on on-going work on the urban fishing cat in Colombo by Anya Ratnayake and Kandy by Ashan Thadugalla in Sri Lanka were also presented.  Poaching of leopards and parasitological impacts on wildcats of Sri Lanka were also discussed.  Finally the status of captive wildcats with a focus on the Sri Lankan leopard, by Frederic Houssay was presented.

Overall the conference was a success as it achieved its purpose of bringing together researchers and possible collaborations.  One outcome of this conference we hope will be the establishment of a small Sri Lanka working group for wildcats. 

The Leopard Project Team

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