SRI LANKAN CARNIVORE PROJECT
S.P.E.C.I.E.S. has partnered up with the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society to delve deeper into the world of Sri Lanka’s medium to large-sized mammals.
The Sri Lanka carnivore project seeks to survey and evaluate the status of seven carnivore species, including the sloth bear, Sri Lankan leopard, rusty-spotted cat, fishing cat, jungle cat, golden palm civet, and Sri Lankan jackal.
The team’s work includes updating the population and conservation status of the Sri Lankan leopard, an IUCN “Endangered” species and thus a high priority species for conservation in the country. Compared to other leopard subspecies in Asia and Africa, the Sri Lankan leopard has been the subject of few rigorous surveys and field investigations, just as the sloth bear has been the subject of few ecological studies relative to other bears.
To learn as much as possible about the sloth bear, studies are underway around Wasgamuwa National Park. The name Wasgamuwa translates as “village of the bears”, as it is home to a healthy population. S.P.E.C.I.E.S. and SLWCS are trying to find out more about the sloth bear’s conservation status across Sri Lanka, as well as to define its relationship to other sloth bears. Given that they are living on an island nation it is possible they are distinct taxonomically.
To the south of Wasgamuwa lies the Knuckles Mountain Range, one of Sri Lanka’s most rugged regions. These mountains are an important part of the conservation story as it’s home to leopards, bears and many other mammals. To date however few rigourous surveys of the remote Knuckles region. As part of this project the first camera-trap survey is being conducted here to assess the diversity of the medium-large mammal community and the abundance of its leopard and bear populations. We are also seeking to find if smaller carnivores, such as the golden palm civet, reside in the Knuckles Mountain Range and its forest.
With urban and agricultural development pressure advancing more rapidly in Sri Lanka, the need to know more about the threats faced by the island’s carnivore populations is more urgent than it has ever been. The more we learn about the ecological requirements of the Sri Lankan leopard and sloth bear, for example, the island’s largest terrestrial predators, the more effective the development of conservation strategies used to create and connect protected areas. These considerations are made even more effective when integrated with the needs of Sri Lanka’s elephant populations, which require very large areas to roam.