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Hill Country Leopard Conservation Project

Peak Ridge Forest Corridor Project

We at AFC have partnered with the Wilderness and Wildlife Conservation Trust (WWCT), founded by reputed ecologists and conservationists Anjali Watson and her husband, Dr Andrew Kittle, to foster co-existence in the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka among people and Leopards- the largest cat in the country.

The project is centered on protecting an 18-acre ridge in the Central Highlands (declared a World Heritage Site in 2010), and home to 28 identified Leopards and 35 other species of flora and fauna. This ridge is also a vital catchment area for two main reservoirs in the area.

Due to the increasing threat of human encroachment, the ecosystems and natural habitats within the ridge have continued to deteriorate in recent years, calling for urgent action to protect the ridge and its surroundings. Protecting the ridge primarily involves creating a safe habitat for the Sri Lankan Leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya). With a population of around 700 – 1000, this animal has been listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. The Leopards known as “umbrella species” has a cascading effect on safeguarding many other species in the same territory.

By partnering with this project with an Investment of Rs. 2.27 Mn, we at AFC have helped to conserve the flora and fauna within this area, including the Leopards and restore the ecosystem of the ridge, while striving to provide a lasting solution for Human – Leopard encounters.

Positive outcomes of our Peak Ridge forest corridor project:

  • To date, we have been able to identify a total of 28 individual leopards (11adult females; 9 adult males; 8 cubs) and additional cubs born towards the end of 2019 are yet to be seen using this Ridge area.
  • Identification of 12 fishing cats in 2019
  • Continuous monitoring of the Ridge via remote cameras.
  • Recording of leopard activity and residency patterns.
  • Documenting of mammal (prey) availability. Documented a minimum of 22 mammal species to date, within the Ridge area.
  • Herpetological surveys to quantify amphibian and reptile presence
  • Habitat mapping
  • Assessment of habitat type along the Ridge to identify areas that could benefit from habitat restoration.
  • Making communities living in the vicinity more aware.
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Nalah and Nina- The female Leopards

Nalah and Nina are two adult female leopards identified during the project and AFC had the honour of naming them both.

Nala is a young adult female who we first photo captured in July 2018. After having monitored her every month since her first visit she is now considered a regular visitor on this Ridge. She has taken over from another female – Norma – who sadly died in May 2018 due to injuries sustained in a snare in January 2018. Nina was spotted with her cub wandering in the area recently which was quite a wonderful sight.

Appointment of "Forest Guardians"

The project also came up with a novel initiative to engage school children in the neighbouring peak wilderness area to become directly involved as “Forest Guardians”, further preserving the natural resources of their neighborhood.

Twenty Children from Grades 6 to 11, from Dunkeld School, were selected with the approval of their parents and school to be “Forest Guardians”. These students will participate in the Peak Ridge Corridor conservation initiative by creating and maintaining a new Butterfly Garden and a Forest Plant Nursery. They also partake in clearing plastic waste accumulated in various areas of the Estate and participate in programs aimed at teaching ecology and conservation theory and methods. They will eventually take on the responsibility of overseeing some of the permanent, remote camera stations located on Dunkeld Estate.

They will also become involved in the care and delivery of forest plants to relevant habitats for re-planting. We aim to replicate this model in other estates along the Ridge thus achieving several short to long term environmental objectives such as conservation, equipping future generations with knowledge and awareness to prevent and solve ecological challenges and nurturing a passion in them to take ownership to preserve their natural habitats. In addition to the above, students will also benefit from a sense of leadership and enhanced self-esteem in taking on responsibility and in expanding their horizons to contribute to a broader cause and AFC feels privileged to be a part of this valuable initiative.

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