Dilmah Conservation and Wild Coast Tented Lodge have finalised plans for a Leopard Research Centre of a global standard, with eminent trustees including Dr. Sumith Pilapitiya and Eric Wickremanayake, working with the likes of Wilderness and Wildlife Conservation Trust and their partners such as the University of Oxford.
This Centre, located in Yala, near Wild Coast Tented Lodge, will house 5 full-time researchers and a Tourist Visitor Centre would also be developed.
The primary goal of the non-profit Leopard Research Centre is to provide funding, facilities and logistical support for researchers and research projects focusing on the Sri Lankan leopard, with an emphasis on long-term studies.
Sri Lanka exhibits a wide array of ecosystems with a diversity of species considered to be the richest per unit area in the Asian region. The country is ranked as a global biodiversity hot spot. The Sri Lankan leopard is an endemic, endangered apex predator that has evolved with no dominant competitor (e.g. lions, tigers). This scenario is unique to Sri Lanka. In fulfilling the role of the apex predator, atop the food chain, the leopard can be considered a keystone species which plays a vital influencing role on the entire ecosystem. The extinction/extirpation of the leopard in Sri Lanka could, therefore, have serious ramifications for lower trophic levels such as prey populations as well as vegetation.
The fact that the leopard roams widely throughout most of the country suggests that it also fulfils the role of an umbrella species, which means that understanding it and conserving it would also be conserving our habitats and other wildlife throughout the country.
To ensure the Sri Lankan leopard, which was listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List in 2008 is conserved, research on the species is needed for conservation measures to be effective. There is an urgent need for a dedicated research station to conduct research for the provision of data and education for the conservation and management of the Sri Lankan Leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya) in its natural habitat.
Dilmah Conservation and Resplendent Ceylon are happy to step forward and address this need, in keeping with our Founder’s ethos that Business is a Matter of Human Service.
Leopard image photographed by Chitral Jayatilake