Saturday, April 27, 2013

The wild goose chase

The main reason to Sri Lanka's famed Yala National Park was the hope of photographing the Sri Lankan leopard. The Sri Lankan leopard is native to Sri Lanka, and is one of eight sub-species of leopards.
Yala is the most visited and second larges national park in Sri Lanka, and is touted to have the highest population of leopards. However, the Sri Lankan leopard is still classified as endangered by IUCN. This is because the population is declining due to threats such as poaching to human-leopard conflict.
Yala, Block 1 entrance

As you can tell by the lack of photos, I was unsuccessful in my quest. Yala suffers from being such a famous national park. The park is busy from 5:30 am with jeeps filled with tourists all waiting for the office to open to buy entrance tickets. Once ticketing is done the mad safari begins when jeep drivers crisscross the area trying to spot leopards. If a sighting is reported then every driver is racing like an F1 driver to the location. You need to hold on tight as the roads are bumpy and you get thrown around quite a lot. I ended up being thrown upwards and hitting my head hard on the roof of the jeep.
The Sunday Times, Sri Lanka carried this article "Law of the jungle in Lanka's premier wildlife park" in its 21 April issue on the lawlessness that seems to prevail in the park. Having been there recently I have to agree with the article. 
link to full article
The other issue is that of animal feeding. Many people don't see this as a problem but once an animal loses its fear for humans it escalates human-animal conflict. It also makes animals easier targets for poachers as they have a set routine due to human conditioning. In Sri Lanka, elephants come out of the forest to beg for food. Here we have the conflict between humans and long-tailed macaques.

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