The Sri Lankan Leopard
Panthera pardus kotiya
The first villu (water body) that you encounter when entering the Wipattu National Park has royalty of its own. A majestic Sri Lankan leopard cub who is merely one and a half years old sits proudly on the sandy track leading into the park around five in the evening. Still a young predator, the Prince of Persibeniwewa will soon claim his territory as King. Even though he appears brave and poised in this capture he has to defeat the mature leopard that currently reigns in the territory to become the true King. The cycle of leopards claiming territory, having cubs of their own and witnessing their cubs grow up to become mature predators themselves is quite commonly seen in these eco systems.
The Sri Lankan Leopard is the apex predator of Sri Lanka. The species is distributed in most parts of the island including the wet and dry zones and the highland forests. The Wilpattu National park is one of the most ideal places to encounter the wonder of this species in broad day light as the leopards patrol the protected areas quite freely. By nature, the Sri Lankan Leopard is a nocturnal species that hunts during the dark. Its favourite prey is the spotted deer that is also abundant in the same habitats. Its method of hunting is calm and precise where it watches its prey quietly before making a quick sprint with a pounce to capture an unsuspecting creature.
Spending a few days roaming the park will leave you with truly memorable sightings of this incredible species. The leopards can be seen making their way through the park, resting on tree trunks, grooming and sometimes even getting a little playful. It is one of the most photogenic and charismatic species in Sri Lanka and is sought after by every wildlife photographer that visits the country.
Listed as a globally endangered species, the Sri Lankan Leopard is a native of Sri Lanka. This makes it imperative that both the local community and those who visit the protected areas makes a real effort in protecting the species.