Killing of leopards: Wildlife Dept. gets it wrong – researcher

By Ifham Nizam

The Department of Wildlife has warned upcountry estate management and officials to be extra cautious when it came to cat species, as particularly leopard and fishing cat deaths in increasing numbers were being reported there due to human actions.

A senior official told The Island that they had been informed of the fact cat species were killed by an organised group, suspected to having connections with those involved in illegal trade in China.

Researcher Rajika Gamage, who is involved in a leopard study in upcountry, however, said that the department has hastily jumped to the decision in connecting countries without checking its facts.

"Fact remains 98 per cent in upcountry areas believe leopards should be killed while one per cent believe in translocation and only the balance one per cent is for conservation," he said.

He also said that 20 leopards and 80 fishing cats had been killed. "These people eat every animal including bandicoots," he said.

Last week, Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa instructed the Wildlife Department to probe incidents of illegal poaching after leopards were killed in snares recently

The PM directed Wildlife Director General M. G. C Sooriyabandara to conduct a prompt investigation and initiate legal action against those responsible after at least four leopards were killed in recent days.

A female leopard died recently after being caught in a snare in the North while three other deaths were reported killed from other areas. Among them was a rare black leopard.

The Prime Minister said it was the responsibility of the government to protect those endangered species and issued a directive to the Wildlife Department to ask plantation communities to prevent such incidents. 

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