Sri Lanka, part of the Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot, hosts an incredible diversity of wildlife with over one in five species found nowhere else on the planet. As the world’s second largest exporter of tea with a population of 21 million, space is at a premium. Whilst competition for land grows, conservation increasingly depends on humanwildlife coexistence, but this is not straightforward when carnivores such as the Sri Lankan leopard are involved.
People and leopards extensively overlap, with the potential to result in losses to both parties as catchment forests disappear. Anjali, Co-Founder of the Wilderness & Wildlife Conservation Trust, aims to enable coexistence and reduce encounters by helping stakeholders to establish a protected corridor for leopards in the Central Highlands. Doing so will connect two reserves and deliver landscape-level solutions in this UNESCO World Heritage site.
The proposed corridor will also help maintain water catchment services and reduce human-wildlife incidents. Using models from Africa, Anjali will train locals as ‘leopard watchers’ to respond to village incursions and reduce incidental snaring of big cats. Participation in conservation will help tea estates meet the criteria for environmental certification schemes, with the price premium channelled to local people. The corridor will also increase tourism opportunities and potential for payments for ecosystem services, such as downstream water provision.
ANJALI’s project will:
- Secure protection of a 40km2 wildlife corridor and buffer zones adjacent to existing protected areas.
- Determine leopard abundance, population density and land use in this ridge area using GPS collars and remote cameras.
- Foster coexistence by conducting 50 outreach events in tea estate communities.
- Increase the network of community ‘leopard watchers’ to reduce leopard mortality from snares by 50%, and respond to incidents.
Why it matters:
- Sri Lanka is home to over 700 leopards.
- The area is the watershed for the Kelani River, providing drinking water for over 4m people.
- Leopards are a conservation umbrella: their protection benefits other species.
“Enabling human wildlife coexistence is key to long term conservation in shared landscapes.”