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Rare black leopard dies during rescue; Underscores need to ban snare traps

30 May 2020 11:17 am - 11     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Snare traps that are being laid to save vegetable plots from attacks by wild boar and other animals have become life threatening to leopards, especially in the Central Highlands. 

So far, four such incidents were reported with the recent death of a rare black leopard being the second such incident during rescue. Except for several sightings, there have been no official count of black leopards in the island. However, conservationists and wildlife experts are calling for a total ban on snare traps while requesting for stricter laws to be drafted on banning snares. The recent incident underscores the urgent need for such laws to be given priority.   

 

Postmortem pending 

“The noose was around the leopard’s neck and therefore we didn’t release it,” said Dr. Tharaka Prasad, Director-Wildlife Health at the Department of Wildlife Conservation. “Just below the neck is the oesophagus and trachea. During the rescue we noticed a haematoma (blood clot) building up. Apart from that its fore-legs and face had bruises. So if we released it and it died afterwards people would have blamed us for negligence. But even during the rescue we noticed that it was suffering from severe internal shock. Once we put it into the cage we didn’t allow any visitors because it was under stress. However the complications grew though it was taking food and water. By yesterday (May 29) morning, we noticed that it had become less aggressive and was given a drip. However, it died at around 10.45am. We also requested a team from Peradeniya University to examine the leopard and conduct a postmortem examination after obtaining a court order.”   

When asked about rescue protocols, Dr. Prasad said they always take the animal to a place in close proximity. “We travel a minimum distance of a minimum duration and this made the Udawalawa Elephant Transit Home the closest destination. We do have resources to rescue animals including a fully-covered cage. We have enough vets to be deployed but because several of these incidents have been frequently happening in the Central Highlands, suggestions have been made to setup another veterinary office apart from the Randenigala office.”   

With reference to the purpose of laying snare traps, Dr. Prasad said people lay snares to protect food crops from wild boar. “It’s not meant for leopards. The place where this black leopard was rescued also had a vegetable plot. But when it comes to tea estates, it’s the people who lay the traps and most of these cases go unreported,” he said.   

We travel a minimum distance of a minimum duration and this made the Udawalawa Elephant Transit Home the closest destination


Snares should be made illegal

Speaking to the Daily Mirror, Anjali Watson, co-Founder and managing trustee of the Wilderness and Wildlife Conservation Trust (WWCT) having extensively studied leopard behaviour in Sri Lanka said the number of such incidents are on the rise. “The black leopard was found near a brand new vegetable plot. This is because at the onset of the curfew people started going home and because they don’t have access to food, new vegetable plots have sprung up,” Ms. Watson said.   


Speaking about the estate sector, she said there has been a positive response to appeals made by WWCT requesting estate managements to stop people from laying snare traps. “Therefore we need to work together and educate people. Authorities such as the Police and DWC need to be supported to prosecute the perpetrators. But I see several grey areas that need to be fixed,” she said.
 

When asked about the count of black leopards, Ms. Watson said there had been no official count except for several sightings. “Any black leopard is a rare species except in Peninsular Malaysia where black leopards are commonly sighted. However, snares are indiscriminate and therefore can kill any animal, either protected or not. This is clearly seen as a case of incidental killing of leopards by snares. Hence they should be made illegal,” she said.   

The Daily Mirror also learnt that several police officers have given the go-ahead to people to lay snares. But when inquired, Nallathanniya Police Chief Inspector Laksiri Fernando denied such allegations. “Laying snares is illegal and we have never given permission to people to lay traps,” he said.   


A matter of not following existing protocols 


Conservationists also identify lapses in following established protocols. “Three years ago, Dr. Vidya Athreya, an Indian researcher studying the human- leopard conflict in India visited Sri Lanka and developed rescue protocols from her own experiences,” said Rukshan Jayawardene, President, Wildlife and Nature Protection Society. “Thereafter two local researchers Dr. Andrew Kittle and Anjali Watson adopted it to suit Sri Lankan conditions. It was translated to Sinhala and perhaps Tamil and the document exists in translation. But it seems that nobody has followed it. It’s quite a comprehensive document explaining the roles of the DWC, Police and other law enforcement authorities. By not following protocol it’s a waste of everybody’s time and money,” he said.   

Mr. Jayawardene said snare traps are illegal but the government and government agencies seem to have turned a blind eye. “The DWC is the legally appointed body to enforce laws to prosecute people who have laid snares, find out who produce wire snares and who’s benefitting from it. I’m not blaming anybody but higher authorities such as the Cabinet and even the President should now focus on this problem,” he said.   

 


Legal loopholes 

According to Section 30 of the Flora and Fauna Protection Ordinance, it is illegal to kill or injure a protected species. “It is also illegal to lay snares in protected areas,” said environmental lawyer Jagath Gunawardena. “However, the fines depend on the species. When the accused was questioned he had said that his intention was not to harm the leopard. But the intention is not reflected in the action.”  (Kamanthi Wickramasinghe)

 

 

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  Comments - 11

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  • Van der Thee Saturday, 30 May 2020 02:09 PM

    If you saw the video from the Udawalawe hospital everyone is taking videos of it and stressing the poor animal in its cage. No wonder he died. No ethics.

    Watchdog Saturday, 30 May 2020 07:56 PM

    Absolutely spot on, I was also wondering on the same observation and felt really pathetic about the wild life conservation loonatics who took their smart phone and videoing the poor animal in the cage. This article itself is biased and hiding the basic fundamental issue where SL wild life lost 2 fully grown leopards in recent times and coming with usual sun and moon excuses like resource issues and it's distribution. These are well known shy aways when things need real guts and balls. Issue is whether these folks are really capable to handle such delicate situations and specious? Bottom line is we being tax payers and money that is been collected and invested in all these kind of Government services are failling miserably and still asking for more, while attitude towards law abiding citizens to accept all what they do and their mess ups.

    Bushel Saturday, 30 May 2020 08:29 PM

    A sound comment

    BuffaloaCitizen Saturday, 30 May 2020 07:37 PM

    All humbug. Did you over anesthetize the leopard? That cage is metal

    Pard Saturday, 30 May 2020 07:56 PM

    Where is Premadasa?

    NIHAL WEERAWARDANE Saturday, 30 May 2020 09:05 PM

    VERY BAD HANDLING BY THE RESCUE TEAM AND GIVING A BIG SHOW TO THE PUBLIC AND STRESSING THE ANIMAL AND RESCUE TEAM NEED VERY MUCH QUALIFICATIONS

    ANTON Saturday, 30 May 2020 09:11 PM

    THEY KILLED HIM, NO PROPER CARE.

    Not Easy Sunday, 31 May 2020 05:22 AM

    Human-Human conflict is called war. Animal - Human conflict is Survival. No easy answers for either.

    George Sunday, 31 May 2020 09:03 AM

    A rescue - The wild life team should go with there guns, and first of all separate the human from animal which is caught then once the animal is caught cover the cage with black cloth. This calms the animal from producing more lactic acid. It's a shame that our people use cheap tacktik and uneducated while they claim they are educated.inly God know how they perform surgeries. I am sure that I could do better.

    Yana Sunday, 31 May 2020 04:57 PM

    Someone should be held accountable for this unnecessary death. The animal was completely traumatised by the people who were in charge. this is a rare and irreplaceable animal.

    Dr Roshan Fernando Sunday, 31 May 2020 08:24 PM

    even the video footage showed that animal was active and aggressive . but..untill the anesthesia was given bedsides his leg entangled therefore..processable COD is either anasthesia overdose...lets see the postmortem report...


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