Sri Lankan Leopard Conservation
The Sri Lankan leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya) is the largest of the four wild cat species found in Sri Lanka, and the apex mammalian predator on the island. It is believed that there are less than 1000 leopards roaming in the wild within the island. Further, the leopard is threatened globally by habitat loss and illegal wildlife trade, while in the human-dominated land-use areas in Sri Lanka.
In addressing this knowledge gap, LOLC Holdings PLC partnered with Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a 05 year project to establish a network of specialised leopard conservation locations and research centers across identified geographically important areas, within Sri Lanka.
In the initial phase, six research stations will be set up in identified locations across Okanda or Panama, Morningside, Killinochchi, Belihuloya, Maskeliya or Nallathaniya, Sigiriya or Ritigala. The Project will monitor the presence of leopards in selected geographical areas, using camera traps and surveys. The Research Centres will liaise with local wildlife and forest officers, and also serve as educational hubs to generate awareness amongst the local communities, including knowledge dissemination and generating research-based human-leopard conflict mitigation measures.
The Project will provide a critical context for the management and conservation of the Sri Lankan leopard, currently listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Recent research has shown that leopard habitat suitability in Sri Lanka is heavily influenced by forest cover, patch size, connectivity, and the level of protection of the landscape, a critical requirement to conserve the island’s biodiversity.