August Volunteers wrap up the Summer with their experiences

"I had a fantastic time, and I wouldn’t change anything about the program. It is so hard to leave, and I would extend my trip if I could! Thank you al

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"I had a fantastic time, and I wouldn’t change anything about the program. It is so hard to leave, and I would extend my trip if I could! Thank you all for a wonderful volunteer experience." Emma Lancaster, USA

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Aurélie (Lily) Coste Chareyre
France

Three words: I loved it. This project brings me a lot of things as on human level as on an animal level. I discovered a new world which is especially what I wanted. I had never volunteered in my life and this was the perfect start; I am sure I will do another one later, perhaps medical volunteering as I am in the medical field.

The staff were lovely, always taking care of the volunteers. The field house was full of life, I very much enjoyed our card game night.

I am just disappointed I didn’t see the “elephant bus” because of holidays.

Thank you very much for these 2 weeks, I have in my head many memories which I will never forget.

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Scott Howells
Wales

What a great introduction for me into the world of volunteering! Sri Lanka is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. The work you guys are doing here is inspirational; I can see the passion you all have for the project and animal conservation as a whole.

The daily activities we’ve taken part in showed me just how much time and effort go into achieving your goals. In just 2 weeks I have learnt a massive amount about the behaviour patterns of elephants and the issues that are faced as a result of elephant/human conflict. I am also the best Data Recorder that has ever volunteered – fact.

Everyone has been so kind and welcoming. The boys are hilarious and made some of the longer stretches out in the field much more enjoyable with jokes and games to keep morale up. It was great to talk to Chandima and gain a better understanding about what the goals of the project are and what issues you face day to day. Alicia = Legend. She made the 2 weeks doubly enjoyable with her banter, happy personality and kindness.

Summed up, I had an amazing time. Maybe one day I’ll come back if you’re lucky!

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Christopher Sangster
England

The elephant conservation project is a fantastic example of an ethical project that provides a perfect opportunity for volunteers to feel like they are making a real difference without causing harm or exploiting the locals. Wildlife is treated with respect and volunteers must remain at a respectful distance, and the activities the Society are involved in all provide benefits for local farmers as well as improving the situation for wildlife.

The accommodation is simple but provides everything you need. Having a central communal area where everyone can sit and chat or play games makes it easy to socialise. There are fantastic views of the surrounding area, especially at sunrise and sunset, and the resident dog and cats are friendly, especially if you’re eating food.

The field guides are all very friendly and make even the more mundane tasks enjoyable through their jokes and playfulness. They are knowledgeable with regard to wildlife and wiling to answer questions, making the activities even more rewarding. There is also some excellent music played in the field house.

There are a good range of activities, meaning that things never become repetitive. It is worth staying for more than one week to ensure that each activity is experienced more than once, as each day is slightly different. For example, I was able to be involved in planting orange trees at the beginning of my time on the project, then on my last day we travelled round several farms to examine trees that had been planted earlier. Seeing different stages of the various projects was highly rewarding.

Overall, I highly enjoyed my time on the project and my only wish is that I could have stayed longer. I would highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in wildlife conservation, or just a love of elephants generally.

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Todd Soyck
USA

The three weeks at the Elephant Project have gone by quickly. What I valued most about the project was the work we did that was geared towards reducing human/elephant conflict. Project Orange Elephant—both planting and monitoring the orange tree saplings—was a rewarding experience. While at times the work was hard, never was I asked to do any more than I could handle and plenty of breaks were allowed during the hot part of the day. Of course, monitoring the elephants in the afternoon and early evening was always a joy.

As for the staff they were helpful, friendly and fun all at the same time. Questions about things were handled very well by those in charge. Also, they were very good about looking after our welfare when it came to health issues.

The food was adequate as to expectations. The accommodations, while a bit simple, were also adequate to meet my immediate needs for sleep and hygiene.

Overall, I met some very nice people, learned a lot about the fauna and culture of Sri Lanka and enjoyed my stay very much.

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Eileen Schildberg
Germany

You can have a lot of fun in the SLWCS if you get involved with the project and the people and do not be afraid of getting a little dirty. They take care of the volunteers very well, the staff is lovely and everything is always clean and the food is very delicious. In addition, there is always a contact person on site if you need help.

I learned a lot about the animals, the work here and about the culture. I really enjoyed seeing how dedicated the whole team is to helping people and animals on the ground. But I was most fascinated by the Project Orange Elephant, which found out that elephants do not eat oranges and they try to avoid damage. Also it was always nice to see the elephants in real nature every day.

I stayed in this project for 2 weeks, but would recommend to anyone if it is possible to stay longer. I spend a wonderful time here, which I will not forget. The filed house becomes your own family, your own home. I will miss the time here very much and if I have the opportunity I would come again.

Many thanks to the wonderful team.

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Emma Lancaster
USA

I heard about this volunteer program through my friend Rae, who discovered it through IVHQ. I read up on the program, and really liked the idea of volunteering in wild elephant conservation in a non-invasive way.

I genuinely enjoyed everything about the volunteer program here. It was really nice to have a variety of different activities every week, and the same routine of elephant observation at night. I also really enjoyed the flexibility of being able to do more work if you wanted to help further. I got a chance to help with elephant ID’s a few times in the afternoons, and it was not only fun, but really useful for me to learn about the process of IDing and the techniques to distinguish elephants apart. I am really happy that I had the opportunity to help out with this, and I just wish I could have done more!

I loved the variety of projects each week – dung analysis, pugmark surveys, fence monitoring, and project orange I liked especially, although I think my favourite project was the dung analysis!! It was nice that the volunteers were given the opportunity to do the data collection and recording. I felt like doing this, I was able to learn a bit more about the processes behind the research and I felt more involved.

The elephant observations were also really nice. Even on the days where we didn’t see any elephants, I still had so much fun riding in the jeeps and hanging out with everybody. I also got a chance to practice Sinhala during this time!

The staff is amazing!! I got along with all of them really well. Alicia is very nice and friendly, and helped me get involved with the elephant ID’s which was super awesome! The other staff members are hilarious (Siria especially), and they were always more than happy to teach me new things about the work, and Sinhala words. There was never a dull moment here thanks to the staff; they all made me feel like I was at home!

The food here was delicious and not too spicy. I never got sick of the meals, although it was nice being able to stop in town once a week to get snacks to feed my chocolate cravings.

Overall, I had a fantastic time, and I wouldn’t change anything about the program. It is so hard to leave, and I would extend my trip if I could! Thank you all for a wonderful volunteer experience 

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Horsfield Family: Michelle, Paul & Ruari and Toby kids aged 10 & 12
UK

We booked to come as we wanted to do something together as a family experiencing a new culture and gaining some personal satisfaction from contributing to a worthwhile project. We have grown together and as parents we’ve enjoyed seeing how our kids operate with other adults in a communal setting like this. We have enjoyed meeting the staff who live locally and eating the tasty food so well prepared by Leela Ratuna.

It has been overall a great adventure and we have all learned a lot; roughing it in dorms is all part of the charm; the boys have loved the endless games of Uno in the evenings and we’ve learnt a lot about the human elephant conflict issue here.

Good luck with the future and we all wish you well.

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Jamie and Frances Clough-Murray
UK

We have had an amazing time doing what we like to do best, watch wildlife in its natural habitat.

The staff were really friendly and accommodating. Alicia is a perfect volunteer coordinator, enthusiastic, always happy to listen and help with everything including the weekends. The Field Scouts are really friendly and can get there point over without speaking much English (which is better than my non existent Sinhala). Siriya is an amazing guide and always finds a way to lighten the mood if its down, which is a real asset.

The small dorm style rooms are basic but work really well, and the fans are a god send, we have had much worse on other volunteer projects.

The morning activities are nice and varied and we felt like we are making small contributions to a larger picture. We missed out on going out on the Ellie-bus due to school holidays, which might have been nice.

The elephant observations from an Elephant perspective is really good, informative and quite exciting.

Frances – (Wanted to do her own review also)

I’ve had a wonderful time. The staff are really helpful. You may have to play charades but it always seems to work. The Field Scouts are great and such fun. Alicia the volunteer coordinator is so friendly as well as helpful. Everyone goes out of their way to make sure you have the best possible experience.

The food can be a bit spicy but I’m a wuss with spice. Siriya is so good at making the mood lighter, making us laugh, teaching us the local games and local words like numbers and animal names. I’ve laughed every single day. Loved helping plant the orange trees to help farmers or prep the butterfly garden. All the activities are aimed at increasing knowledge or helping people in order to protect the elephants.

I haven’t been able to go on the EleBus due to school holidays. The staff have helped to plan and book activities for the weekends off. The other volunteers are cool too. All in all just come join in and enjoy. I absolutely loved it!

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For information on the SLWCS Volunteer Program please visit: https://www.slwcs.org/volunteer

SLWCS Staff and Volunteer shirts sponsored by elephantea

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Big, rumbling thanks to our Corporate Partners for their kind support and to everyone who has donated and supported our wildlife conservation efforts!

Project Orange Elephant: Creating Sustainable Livelihoods, Coexistence with Elephants and addressing Climate Change

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"Breakfast without orange juice is like a day without sunshine." Anita Bryant

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Project Orange Elephant is ensuring a sustainable future for these children

On the morning of Thursday, September 26, 2019 large groups of villagers headed to the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society Field House in Pussellayaya. As the villagers came up the drive way their noses would have been assailed by the invigorating aroma of citrus. By our office 5,000 grafted orange plants were waiting for these villagers. For the upcoming planting season which will begin with the onset of the Northeast Monsoon rains in October, the SLWCS has planned to distribute 7,000 grafted orange plants. The first consignment of 5000 plants was delivered on Tuesday and now the villagers who had signed up for the program had gathered at our Field House to collect their plants.

01. Delivery

Delivering five thousand orange plants

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Volunteers helping to unload the orange plants

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Five thousand orange plants ready for distribution and planting

One hundred and fifty nine villagers consisting 37 villagers from Weheragalagama, 47 villagers from Pussellayaya, 50 villagers from Dunuvila and 25 villagers from Goviraja Pitiya received 5000 orange plants.

03. POE Villagers
04. POE Villagers
02C. POE 5000 Plants
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The POE Crew

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Weeding the Orange plants

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04A. POE Villagers

It was very interesting to see how the villagers transported their plants: By hand, in wheelbarrows, in huge tractors and Land Master hand tractors hauling trailers, scooters, motorcycles and bicycles, on their shoulders and on their heads. The diversity of rural conveyance systems is pretty varied and unique.

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Taking plants in a wheelbarrow

07. Tuk Tuk

Loading plants into a Tuk Tuk

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Transporting plants by Land Master hand tractor

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Transporting plants by tractor trailer

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13. Shoulder

On the shoulder…

11. On Heads

…on heads

10. Scooter

By Scooters…

14. Glorious

…even in Glorious

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By Bicycle…

08 By Hand

…and by hand

Little children apparently found the entire event very enjoyable—especially helping their parents to select plants and loading them into the various conveyances they had traveled by to the event. It was great to have children attending the plant distribution since it is important from very early on to inculcate in them how important it is to become good stewards for the environment. This is a role the SLWCS takes very seriously—educating and creating awareness in children about protecting the environment, conserving wildlife, addressing climate change and living sustainably.

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The Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society very warmly and gratefully acknowledges the financial support received from The Intrepid Foundation of Australia, The Sea of Change Foundation of the USA and EleBalance, Inc., of the USA to the Project Orange Elephant. Their support is helping POE to continue to make a difference in the lives of farmers, elephants and the environment in Wasgamuwa, Sri Lanka.

Vincent Van Gogh is said to have proclaimed there would be no blue without orange. For the people and elephants of Wasgamuwa there would be no coexistence without oranges.

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Big, rumbling thanks to our Corporate Partners for their kind support and to everyone who has donated and supported our wildlife conservation efforts!
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Photo Credits:

Chinthaka Weerasinghe/SLWCS
Alicia Chadwick/SLWCS

Thanks & Regards,


Sathsara 

Associate Software  Engineer

EFutures Private Limited

No. 20/54, Fairfield Gardens, Colombo 08, Sri Lanka. 
M – 0775309503  Web – http://www.efuturesworld.com 

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October Volunteers in Action in the Field

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"My time with the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society was way more than I imagined it would be. This wonderful organization nurtured a true love of nature and elephants within me. I learned so much and had so much fun at the same time. Observing the elephants in their natural habitat is an experience I will never forget!!!" Shanae Goshea, U.S.A.

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Alicia Chadwick
Volunteer Coordinator
SLWCS

Monday, September 30th 2019

Morning

Team: Petra, Jenny, Jasmine and Sonia

Sand and Camera trapping in Karu Forest. No prints in the sand trap, possibly because of the rain. Some great photos in the cameras however, including a leopard and sloth bear.

Afternoon

All Volunteers

The Field Scouts were told there were elephants in Himbiliyakada so we drove around there for a long time. Finally we spotted them up on the mountain in the rain!

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Tuesday, October 01st 2019

Morning

Team 1: Petra, Jenny, Jasmine and Sonia

Dung analysis at the old tree huts. A lot of fresh dung, only a few hours old. Very healthy aside from some discoloration.

Team 2: Lee, Charlie, Emil and Steve

Dung analysis along Karu road. Saw some dung, a few days old. A lot of footprints along the road also.

Afternoon

All Volunteers

No elephants! We heard some movement but no visual sightings.

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Wednesday, October 02nd

Morning

Team: Petra, Jenny, Jasmine and Sonia

Project Orange Elephant today consisted of helping local farmers plant their trees. Volunteers helped dig 20 holes for Siriya's orange trees. Very hot work that ended with some cold fresh juice.

Afternoon

All Volunteers

Finally, we saw some elephants up close at Madupitya. The group of 6 moved from the Tree Hut Forest into Madupitya.

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Thursday, October 03rd

Morning

Team: Petra, Jenny, Jasmine and Sonia

Pugmark survey in Mada Ela this morning. Only a few prints were found, and it was very hot. We had a lovely water break at a small river to cool off.

Afternoon

Team 1: Petra and Jenny

Observation in the tree hut forest next to Weheragala tank. A family of elephants, including infants and juveniles were observed.

Team 2: Sonia and Jasmine

National Park visit. Got very close to a heard of elephants, where an older female was very protective of the rest of the family.

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Friday, October 04th

Morning

Team: Petra, Jenny and Jasmine

Morning project was fence monitoring on the other side of Himbiliyakanda. The fence was well kept. We passed a farmer who was harvesting watermelon and gave us some of her watermelons. We all enjoyed them over the water break.

Afternoon

All Volunteers

Went to Weheragala for observation, where we saw one elephant run across the road but it disappeared into the forest very quickly.

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Monday, October 07th

Morning

Team: Jenny

As Jenny was the only volunteer this morning, we re-potted orange trees with Vijay. It was a hot, but successful morning.

Afternoon

All Volunteers Naomi, Dan and Dana arrived just in time for a quick orientation before we left to do elephant observations. We saw 3 separate elephants within the first half hour but then nothing. It started to storm at 17.45 so we quickly left.

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Tuesday, October 08th

Morning

Team 1: Jenny (with Ruvini, Alicia and Asitha)

Mahaweli river survey with Jenny was very productive. We got through 2 locations despite the heat.

Team 2: Naomi, Dan and Dana

Sand and camera traps with Chathuranga. Volunteers spotted a leopard print in the sand traps!

Afternoon

All Volunteers

We waited at the tank for 1.5 hours and finally heard them in the forest at 17.30. At 17.50 we saw a family emerge with some babies and juveniles.

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Wednesday, October 09th

Morning

Team: Jenny, Dan, Naomi and Dana

Dung analysis was conducted at Weheragala tank to see if elephants are in the area. Only 5-7 day old dung was found, which proves they are elsewhere and explains why we haven’t seen elephants for a while!

Afternoon

All Volunteers

No elephants were observed today, but we saw a lot of birds including a hoopoe which was very exciting.

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Thursday, October 10th

Morning

Team: Jenny, Dan, Naomi and Dana

Fence monitoring along the river was very productive from our volunteers. There were more than 10 poles knocked down from elephants in the area.
Afternoon

Team 1: Jenna and Dana

Went to regular observation at Weheragala Tank. No elephants were observed.

Team 2: Naomi and Dan

Volunteers observed over 100 elephants in the national park! It was a fabulous day for them.

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Friday, October 11th

Morning

Team: Dan, Naomi and Dana

Volunteers went to Pussellayaaya for Project Orange Elephant, where they weeded and surveyed orange trees of 2 farms. It was hard work, but rewarding.

Afternoon

All Volunteers

One elephant was observed today, despite getting stuck in the mud and everyone chipping in to help push out the jeep. It was great fund and team building!

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For information on the SLWCS Volunteer Program please visit: https://www.slwcs.org/volunteer

SLWCS Staff and Volunteer shirts sponsored by elephantea

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Big, rumbling thanks to our Corporate Partners for their kind support and to everyone who has donated and supported our wildlife conservation efforts!

2019 International Elephant Conservation & Research Symposium, South Africa

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"Attending the IEF symposiums have being pivotal to the success of the elephant conservation efforts of the SLWCS." Ravi Corea, president, SLWCS

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Debbie Olson, Executive Director of IEF giving the welcome address.

The 16th International Elephant Conservation & Research Symposium organized by the International Elephant Foundation was held from October 21 to the 25th 2019 in South Africa.

The Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society presented two papers on its ground breaking human elephant conflict mitigation and elephant research work. The titles of the presentations were:

Project Orange Elephant: An Economic Solution to Mitigate Human-Elephant Conflicts: A case study from Wasgamuwa, Sri Lanka

An Assessment of Using Remote Camera Traps for Asian Elephant Research

The Society was invited to present a 3rd presentation on its internationally renowned voluntourism program. The presentation was titled: Initiating a Voluntourism Program as a Sustainable Economic Initiative to help Mitigate Human Elephant Conflicts

The SLWCS gave three presentations garnering the Society international recognition for its innovative and pioneering efforts integrating social enterprise, responsible travel, field research, conservation and sustainable development concepts to create a highly successful model for sustainable community based conservation in Sri Lanka.

IEF POE Presentation
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Over the past 19 years the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society have had a close relationship with the International Elephant Foundation (IEF) and had the privilege to attend and present at 9 of the past 11 international symposiums held since 2000.

In 2003 when the IEF symposium was held in Sri Lanka the SLWCS was one of the local organizing partners. The SLWCS sponsored the key note speaker, Dr. Ian Douglas-Hamilton to attend the 2003 symposium. The Society also provided sponsorships for five Sri Lankan university students to attend the symposium.

IEF Remote Camera Trapping Presentation
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IEF Voluntourism Program Presentation
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Attending the IEF symposiums have being pivotal to the success of the elephant conservation efforts of the SLWCS. As a result the Society has been able to launch several innovative and pioneering projects such as its’ Saving Elephants by Helping People, The Field Scouts Program, The Africa Asia Elephant Conservation Project and most recently to the novel and world’s first EleFriendly Bus Service which also received funding support from Colombo Jewellery Stores, Asian Elephant Support, elephantea, Cha’s Organics, Wealthtrust Securities Ltd., and Adele & Loi Nguyen.

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While in Africa, Ravi Corea, the president of the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society also got a truly wonderful opportunity to meet some of the locals and hang out with them.

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We wish the International Elephant Foundation all the very best and a long and successful future and look forward to continuing our engagement with the IEF in the coming years.

We extend a warm and grateful Thank you to Ms. Linda Reifschneider of Asian Elephant Support and Ms. Debbie Olson, Executive Director of the International Elephant Foundation for sponsoring the SLWCS to attend this year’s symposium.

For information on the SLWCS Volunteer Program please visit: https://www.slwcs.org/volunteer

SLWCS Staff and Volunteer shirts sponsored by elephantea

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Big, rumbling thanks to our Corporate Partners for their kind support and to everyone who has donated and supported our wildlife conservation efforts!

A Deadly Attack in the Night!

 

 

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“The villagers took a huge risk since a hungry leopard is no match for an unarmed crowd going by recent incidents where leopards had attacked injuring or killing people in broad daylight."

 

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Death that comes in the night…

 

Deep in the Himbiliyakada forest reserve is a small and remote hamlet with five families. This is Irriyagaha. The road leading to the hamlet is a long, lonely and desolate stretch once it leaves the last vestiges of human habitation several kilometers back. The gravel road winds up and through the hills hemmed in on both sides by thick forests. Even a full moon struggles to shed light on this dark and lonely road in the night due to the thick canopy that arches overhead. These forests are the haunts of many jungle denizens including the prowling and illusive leopard, the shuffling sloth bear considered the most feared animal in the jungle, and the majestic and stately elephant.

 

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Inside these thickly forested hills is Irriyagaha

 

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The remote and desolate road leading to Irriyagaha

 

On November 20th around 1 am a leopard had arrived at the sleepy little hamlet and targeted a pregnant cow that belonged to a villager named Karu. The cow was tied when the attack happened. Going by the signs the cow had probably sensed the leopard before it attacked and was in an agitated state as evidenced by the churned up ground by where she was tethered.

As the leopard launched its’ attack the cow had broken off the rope and run towards Karu’s home dragging the leopard along. Just as she reached the small creek by Karu’s home the leopard had managed to get a strangle hold on the cow’s neck and killed her. By the size of the dead cow and the signs left behind it can be assumed that it was a very large leopard most probably a male. We have remote cameras stationed in the adjacent forests and have recorded the presence of several large male leopards in these forests.

 

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Karu and his family were not home that night. The few neighbors heard the commotion but were frightened to come out since in the dead of night there is no way of knowing what is happening in the dark. Once a sufficient number of them had gathered to boost up their courage and they had enough flashlights to investigate, they had ventured out shouting and making noise to ward off whatever wild beast that was out there.

Following the signs on the ground they followed in the direction where the cow had run. The villagers took a huge risk since a hungry leopard is no match for an unarmed crowd going by recent incidents where leopards had attacked injuring or killing people in broad daylight.

It is interesting that this past May we had a young female leopard prey on five calves during a 6 weeks period belonging to a farmer who lived just north of Karu’s. We managed to get photos of the leopardess by setting up cameras by her last kill. And then just as suddenly the killings stopped. We compensated this farmer by giving him a heifer (https://madmimi.com/s/69148e).

Due to the close proximity of the dead cow to the village homes it was not advisable to keep the carcass to set up remote cameras. The villagers planned to bury the carcass to discourage the leopard from coming back.

 

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The young female leopard that was responsible for a spate of calf killings

 

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When Karu and his family arrived later in the morning and heard the news he was naturally very unhappy and sorrowful of his double loss since the cow was pregnant and it was more of a pet than a farm animal. The SLWCS has committed to provide him with cow on the understanding that he will not take measures to seek retribution from the leopard.

Trying to maintain this tenuous balance where people are willing to coexist with wild animals is one of the biggest challenges the SLWCS faces every day! You can support our efforts by visiting our website at: www.slwcs.org

There is never a dull moment in Wasgamuwa.

 

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Karu with the broken rope by the tree where he last tethered his cow

 

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The broken rope

 

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The signs of struggle as the cow tried to escape the leopard

 

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Eating

 

Big, rumbling thanks to our Corporate Partners for their kind support and to everyone who has donated and supported our wildlife conservation efforts!