A project to monitor leopard numbers
In Sri Lanka, Leopards were once found across the island. Today, the Sri Lankan leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya), a subspecies native to our island, is classified as Endangered by the IUCN. Little is known about the island’s only big cat in terms of population ecology, behavioral and activity patterns. The Sri Lankan leopard is one of only two leopard subspecies confined to an island.
For the Leopard Trust – SL’s first systematic approach to collecting leopard data
For the Leopard Trust (FLT) is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation that is dedicated to conserve the Sri Lankan leopard and other small cats on the island. FLT, in collaboration with the Environmental Foundation LTD and the Department of Wildlife Conservation, launched a study utilizing camera traps, a project that has been supported by Kulu Safaris from the outset. This project is conducted by key local and international experts, including Dinal Samarasinghe, Dr. Eric Wikramanayake, Alexander Braczkowski, Jehan Kumara, Rukshan Jayewardene, Kithsiri Gunawardene and Justine Alexander. Kulu Safaris has supported the project, by means of partially sponsoring the program and providing logistical support as well as contributing the experience and expertise of our rangers.
Camera traps to study leopards
Camera traps are now widely used by conservation biologists and wildlife managers as a non-invasive method to monitor wildlife. These camera traps use thermal motion sensors to capture photographs or videos of an animal when it moves in front of it. Therefore, camera traps are set in known animal footpaths and areas where the presence of a targeted animal is confirmed. With new advancements in the quality of equipment, this method of field observation is becoming more popular among researchers.
As camera trapping operates continually, providing proof of species present in an area, this can greatly assist in conservation efforts. Camera traps are helpful in quantifying the number of different species in an area, it can also be useful in identifying new or rare species that have yet to be well documented. By using camera traps, the well-being and survival rate of animals can be observed over time.
The use of camera traps, which captures clear imagery was imperative to the present study, as it required good images to identify leopards individually based on their spot patterns. Leopards have spots and rosettes across their body in different sizes and shapes, and these patterns differ from individual to individual, just like human finger prints. Therefore, these patterns are used to identify individual leopards in a population which helps create a reliable data base.
The main objective of the present project is to establish a baseline population estimate for the Wilpattu National Park and its environs. The study was carried out last year (2018) from May to September and the findings are expected to be published in the near future.
Stay tuned for more updates on this project.
TO BE CONTINUED….