The ex­cit­ing find­ings – leop­ards love the glades & feast on sam­bar

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - NEWS -

The cub pho­to­graphs cap­tured on the cam­era traps are am­ple proof that Hor­ton Plains is a breed­ing habi­tat, says Dr. Enoka Ku­davi­dan­age, over­joyed over this pos­i­tive as­pect.

The re­searchers have not named the leop­ards yet, only num­bered them. Of reams of pho­to­graphs -- more than 50,000 -- about 10,00015,000 ‘cap­tures’ were of leop­ards.

We have cur­rently iden­ti­fied 23 in­di­vid­ual leop­ards in this four-year study in Hor­ton Plains, says Enoka, point­ing out that the Spa­tially Ex­plicit Cap­ture Re­cap­ture (SECR) method is a sci­en­tific tech­nique used to es­ti­mate the pop­u­la­tion cor­rectly, based on record­ing and re-record­ing the pres­ence of an an­i­mal in the given habi­tat. The num­bers could vary as some mi­grate dur­ing the mat­ing sea­son and as such the den­sity could be lesser than that de­ter­mined by SERC. Some of the leop­ards may be cross­ing Hor­ton Plains and not be re­sid­ing there.

Leop­ards laze around mostly in for­est glades, rest­ing alone or some­times as cou­ples dur­ing the mat­ing sea­son and there­after with cubs. A “cute” male haunted a par­tic­u­lar spot at least once a week for three months, smiles Enoka.

Based on scat (drop­pings) anal­y­sis, the team has iden­ti­fied about 110 sam­ples of com­mon kills of leop­ards – mainly sam­bar, bark­ing deer, hare, birds and mon­keys.

An in­ci­dent over which there was much joy was when they mon­i­tored a leop­ardess with a lump on its side and saw that the growth had dis­ap­peared af­ter about six months, most prob­a­bly heal­ing nat­u­rally.

The ‘side-prizes’ caught on cam­era were the Rusty- spot­ted cat, the Black-naped Hare, wild boar, por­cu­pine, Bear Mon­key (the mon­tane ver­sion of the Pur­ple- faced Leaf Mon­key), brown mon­goose, bark­ing deer, Stripe-necked Mon­goose and birds in their va­ri­ety in­clud­ing pea­cocks (usu­ally seen in the Dry Zone), spur­fowl (shy and hard to spot) and rap­tors.

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