A Standardised Population Survey of the Sri Lankan Leopard in Wilpattu National Park

Project name

A Standardized Population Survey of the Sri Lankan Leopard in Wilpattu National Park

Conducted by

Dinal J. S. Samarasinghe

Project status

Ongoing

Location

Wilpattu National Park

Collaborators

Environmental Foundation Ltd For the Leopard Trust and the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC)

Funded by

LOLC

The total exercise summed up to a total of 100 days, beginning from the month of May. The project successfully completed its first phase from May to June surveying the Eastern portion of the park. A total of 40 camera trap stations were used across a ca. 350 km2 area.

Significance:

It is Sri Lanka’s first scientifically robust study on the Sri Lankan leopard in Sri Lanka, using spatially explicit capture-recapture methods to estimate densities across heterogeneous habitats within the park.

Objectives of the project
  • Estimate the population density of the Sri Lankan Leopard in Wilpattu National Park (WNP)
  • Estimate the Prey Density
  • Measure faunal diversity across the range of habitat in WNP
  • Develop a standardised long-term population monitoring protocol for the Sri Lankan Leopard in Sri Lanka

The total exercise summed up to a total of 100 days, beginning from the May 2018. The first phase was successfully  completed during May- June 2018 surveying the Eastern portion of the park. A total of 40 camera trap stations were used across a ca. 350 km2 area.
From July – September 2018, the western half of the park was surveyed with a use of 46 camera trap stations. Field work began on the 23 July 2018 and ended on the 16 September 2018. The second phase was quite extensive since the road networks in these areas were not fully developed. However, a large area was covered during this exercise and many leopard encounters were detected.
On a negative front, a total of  six camera traps were lost due to activities carried out by poachers and honey collectors and the lost camera traps were not recovered. A public awareness campaign was also carried out regarding the project followed by the loss of cameras with the hope of recovering the lost cameras and also to protect the remaining cameras in the park. This was achieved by distributing pamphlets, putting up public notices in towns and public areas and with the use of public mobile announcing unit (loud speaker fixed on a tuk tuk). Four villages: Eluvankulam, Ralmaduwa, Serakkuliya and Karativu were covered during the awareness campaign so as to make people aware of the project and its purpose and the use of cameras within the park. Requests were made to hand over any of the stolen cameras to the nearest religious establishment. This effort helped stop further theft of cameras in the park. However, none of the stolen cameras were recovered.

Project Outcomes:
1. This is the country’s first scientifically robust study on the Sri Lankan Leopard in Sri Lanka, using spatially explicit capture-recapture methods to estimate densities across heterogeneous habitats within the park. The estimates derived from these surveys will set a baseline for the leopard population of the Wilpattu National park.
2. Have a large data set of wildlife ranging from bats, birds, mongoose, civet cats, other wildcats (rusty spotted cat, jungle cat and fishing cat) to large elephants across a wide range of habitats. This will be important to indicate the richness of the fauna diversity in the park.
3. The surveys conducted in Wilpattu National Park will be used as a key baseline to develop a protocol to carry out long-term leopard density surveys in the island following standardised methods.