Photo / Akila Darshana Pandita
The main cause of leopard death in Sri Lanka is traps (wire traps) and 42 leopard deaths have been reported in the last 10 years.
The most recent event was a rare black leopard that, three days after being trapped, suffered its injuries and the black leopard died, sparking public outrage against the use of traps.
Technically, traps are banned in Sri Lanka, as in the United Kingdom, but traps for “pests” such as wild boar are allowed under special natural conditions; However, depending on the nature of the functionality of the devices, all wildlife is potentially targeted.
May 29, a local environmental organization, declared Leopard Day in Sri Lanka to raise awareness of the importance of protecting endangered leopard species and the potential and potential threats to large species of cats.
On May 29, a black leopard – or black panther – died at the Sri Lankan government’s wildlife treatment center. The animal was brought there three days ago after being trapped in a trap in a tea estate in the Hatton hills in the central district of Nuwara Eliya. This death has caused public outrage in Sri Lanka over the fate of the big cats. Sri Lanka is a place where the population of leopards is rapidly declining due to human activities.
The Sri Lankan leopard (Panthera pardus leopard) is an endemic subspecies and the island’s top predator.
Leopards usually have dark spots with a rusty yellow color, sometimes black due to a mutation called melanism. This latest black leopard, which was captured on automatic camera last October, caused a great stir among wildlife lovers at the time.
Black leopards are a rare animal in Sri Lanka; They have been reported on only three occasions in the last decade. Although the most common are killed by wild animals, deer or wild boar are usually hunted for wild meat. The two previously reported black leopards were killed by traps in 2009 and 2013 at the border of the Sinharaja Forest Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Black leopards are not the only ones at risk: traps are the leading cause of death for large numbers of leopards in Sri Lanka. In the first five months of this year, six leopards were trapped; Four of them died. In the second half of May, two leopards were found in traps, one of which was a black leopard. The other survived.
According to the Wildlife and Wildlife Conservation Trust (WWCT), 47 leopards have been trapped in the past decade. Of the total 79 leopard deaths reported during this period, 42 were due to trap injuries.
“Many animals are trapped and may go unreported. Therefore, that number could be much higher, ”said the Sri Lanka Forest Parks and Wildlife Conservation Trust.
A trap is basically a steel wire nose hidden in the paths frequented by wild animals. When the animal unsuspectingly or with one hand touches the wire, the nose of the locking wire is activated. As the animal struggles to free itself, the trap tightens. Sri Lanka has a ban on trapping animals under the Plant and Animal Welfare Act, but the law has flexibility for “species of pests” such as wild boar that harm crops. But events do not prevent leopards and other wildlife from falling into these traps.
“It is very difficult to save these animals because of the damage to their internal organs due to the struggle for their release,” Tharaka Prasad Mongabe, director of wildlife health at the Department of Veterinary and Wildlife Conservation (DWC), said.
In the case of leopards, the traps are usually caught around the animal’s hip area. There, damage to organs such as the kidneys can occur. Data from the WWCT for 2010-2020 show that 90% of trapped leopards die. Of the 47 leopards
recorded by the Sri Lanka Wildlife Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust
, 37 are hunted in the central highlands of Sri Lanka. “A century ago, large amounts of montane forests in the central highlands of the island were cleared for tea cultivation. These small pieces of forest are left for the leopards and these jungles continue to shrink, ”said Anjali Watson, ecologist at the Sri Lanka Forest Parks and Wildlife Conservation Trust. “When leopards come out at night and frequently cross these corridors through various corridors, they can fall into traps.”
Citing the latest incident of a leopard on a tea estate in Hatton, the country’s tea-growing capital, she described the area as “a typical corridor used by mountain male leopards to navigate various forest areas.” The present vegetable growing area was then part of the leopard trail and the Sri Lanka Forest Parks and Wildlife Conservation Trust believes that this problem can be minimized by connecting the leopard trail by conserving small forests between tea estates.
Watson believes that a nationwide lockdown in response to the COVID-19 epidemic could exacerbate the problem. Leopards’ livelihoods have been threatened again as many people have lost their jobs or livelihoods due to the locks, and new plots of land have been found for farming and small plots of land along the leopard path have been exposed.
The need for rapid rescue
Defecation is technically banned in Sri Lanka, but conservationists say the special permit, labeled a “pest species,” should be reviewed.
Leopard death and trap use in Sri Lanka
Leading environmental lawyer Jagath Gunawardena said, “Sri Lankan law has adequate provisions to take legal action against snare makers for indiscriminate slaughter of animals other than targeted wild boar.”
“We need to increase the punishment for those who set traps, such as imprisonment and possession of property by the government,” said Rukshan Jayawardena, a custodian of the Leopard Conservation Trust. “This illegal activity has been ignored for a long time. Wildflowers brutally kill animals. ”
Jayawardena says it is important to find out whether the traps are organized in an organized manner, especially targeting leopards.
If a leopard is trapped at night, it will be noon the next day when a team of wildlife doctors arrives. During those hours of struggle, the leopard is heartbroken and suffers severe damage to internal organs.
“Every second that a rescue operation takes, the probability of the animal’s survival decreases, so time is of the essence,” Jayawardena said.
He called for the establishment of a fully-fledged wildlife rescue and treatment center in the central highlands to reduce response time. Mr.
Jayewardene emphasized the importance of ensuring rapid coordination between the various agencies and formulating a definite plan for wildlife emergencies, including animal survival and treatment for timely mobilization of resources .
“It’s not about responding, it’s about responding quickly. There is no time to lose, ”he said.
Public outrage over the death of the black leopard is now turning to an awareness campaign. The Wildlife and Nature Conservation Society, a leading conservation group, has declared May 29 as Leopard Day to focus on the urgent need to protect Sri Lanka’s unique predator and to lead the fight against deadly traps.
Translated article courtesy of: – https://news.mongabay.com/2020/06/for-sri-lankas-dwindling-leopards-wire-snares-are-the-leading-killer/
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